The Utrecht Archives: A virtual carriage ride through 18th century Utrecht

The Utrecht Archives: A virtual carriage ride through 18th century Utrecht Experience Utrecht 1713 Imagine this: in the year 2013, during your visit to the exhibition Big wigs, low culture, you step into a 18th century carriage. You take a seat on one of the benches and suddenly the carriage starts moving… is it departing? The coach rides through the bumpy streets of Utrecht during the time of the peace negotiations, 1713-1715. Through the small carriage window you see other carriages pass you by. The coachman introduces himself as Pieter Blankaert. And while you enjoy the beautiful views, the old mills, churches and ships in the canals, Pieter tells you some saucy stories….. Visitors of the exhibition Big wigs, low culture can experience this extraordinary virtual carriage ride. The Utrecht Archives developed an interactive carriage ride for visitors of the exhibition Big wigs, low culture. This exhibition is part of the city event Treaty of Utrecht, 300 years. The aim of the virtual carriage ride is to let visitors feel and think they are taking a ride in a coach through the historical city of Utrecht, to really let them experience the city in the 18th century. The combination of physical movement, moving pictures, décor, atmosphere and a beautiful story based on historical sources, make a unique experience of past times. As soon as the carriage doors close, a film starts behind the carriage windows. Simultaneously the carriage starts moving and you hear the sound of horseshoes on cobblestones. The visitor is transported to the city of Utrecht, it is the year 1713….. Historical sources The exhibition’s curators based the stories told by the coachman Pieter Blankaert on historical sources by Nicolaas Chevalier. Chevalier owned his own newspaper, the Journal d’Utrecht, and wrote extensively about the peace negotiations and entanglements in the city. When diplomats threw outrageous parties, he was the one who described them in detail, and printed and illustrated those writings himself. For the carriage film, drawings of the Utrechtartists Jacobus Versteegh and Jan de Beijer are used and give the visitor a beautiful view of Utrecht in the 18th century. The drawings are digitally enhanced so it looks like they are three-dimensional and moving with you. The drawings are part of the Utrecht Archives collection, as are all the other historical sources that are used for the film. Treaty of Utrecht In 1713, when Utrecht was appointed to hold the peace negotiations to end the Spanish war of succession, it suddenly became the centre of Europe. Soon numerous carriages with diplomats and other dignitaries rolled through the streets of Utrecht. The accessibility for carriages played a main role in choosing Utrecht as the place for peace negotiations. In wide streets carriages could easily pass each other and there was ample parking at city hall. The many carriages that suddenly rode through the city attracted a lot of attention and caused unprecedented traffic. Hence, for the curators of the exhibition Big wigs, low culture it was clear from the start that a carriage had to play an important role in the exhibition. The result is the virtual carriage ride! About The Utrecht Archives The Utrecht Archives is a records department in the Dutch City of Utrecht. The Archives manage the biggest and richest collection of documents about the history of the city and the province of Utrecht and its towns and people. With over 27 km of archives, images (such as prints, drawings, maps, photo’s, films) and 70.000 publications, the Archive is the major source of information for the history of Utrecht. The visitor centre at Hamburgerstraat 28 in Utrecht houses various exhibitions, such as ‘Big wigs, low culture’. http://www.hetutrechtsarchief.nl/      

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