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Projections of the past via the technology of today

Our latest case study looks inside the Oldenzaal Digital Hanseatic City project, managed by the Stichting Oldenzaalse Musea (Oldenzaal Museums Foundation); a project using digitalised versions of historical documents to present the story of the Dutch city’s Hanseatic past through immersive digital projection

Oldenzaal is a city with a rich history. In the Middle Ages, it was considered the most important city in the region of Twente in the Netherlands, serving as both a religious- and trade-centre. Located at a crossroads, its church – complete with its impressive canons – helped to drive a thriving trade, not only within the region but also with cities connected to the powerful Hanseatic League, a medieval commercial and defensive confederation of merchant guilds and market towns in Central and Northern Europe.

It’s a subject of debate among historians as to whether Oldenzaal was a true Hanseatic city, a point that’s hard to prove either way given that the Helmich Fire of 1492 reduced almost the entire city to ashes, resulting in the loss of many important documents related to the city’s history. While there is little visible evidence of Oldenzaal’s Hanseatic period, there are now plenty of opportunities to explore the story digitally from a cultural-historical perspective, due to the Oldenzaal Digital Hanseatic City project, managed by the Stichting Oldenzaalse Musea (Oldenzaal Museums Foundation). Thanks to the project, a tailor-made historical compilation – using digitalised versions of historical documents – presents the story of Oldenzaal’s Hanseatic past in an engaging and immersive digital projection format.

A past for all to see
Given the role Oldenzaal played in the development of the Twente, the Stichting Oldenzaalse Musea had the ambition to share Oldenzaal’s stories from the past with the public. Two stories in particular have been essential in shaping modern Oldenzaal: its role during the Eighty Years’ War, and the development of Oldenzaal as a Hanseatic city. In order to portray its story easily and accessibly, it chose to present them in a public space using advanced projection mapping. In a five-minute projection, materials available digitally (ranging from official documents to archaeological finds, etchings, engravings, maps and so on) are supplemented with animation, to convey the story in an accessible and fascinating way.

TriMotion, the Netherlands based solutions provider, used its creative and technical talents to transfer the history behind Oldenzaal stories into short animations, but with a modern touch. For example, the Eighty Years’ War has been visualised into an eight-minute animation, following various characters who played important roles in Oldenzaal during that period. The animations were projected on the Plechelmus Basilica in Oldenzaal for several days and were highlights of the guided tours conducted through the city. As an additional feature, a life-sized version of Tetris was developed, too. Visitors could control the blocks on the church using a controller and compete for the highest score.

A projector designed to stand the test of time
TriMotion also guided the Stichting Oldenzaalse Musea when it came to acquiring a reliable and easy-to-use projector for projection mapping, enabling them to present shows frequently. They also helped train volunteers to operate the projector and sound system, so that the project could operate independently. 

The hardware supplier for this project was MAV Techniek. It was approached by TriMotion to recommend a suitable projector that met the requirements for this project. Based on the client’s needs, the content being displayed and the environment the projector would be used in, MAV Techniek decided on the Vivitek DU9800z laser projector with 18,000 ANSI lumens. 

The DU9800Z Single Chip WUXGA Laser Projector delivers up to 20,000 hours of operation. Additionally, the projector presents many benefits to System Integrators due to its small form factor and light weight that enables simple and swift installation. It offers a new Constant Brightness feature to help reduce blending maintenance and customise brightness, while a built-in light sensor inside the projector monitors the level of light. The DU9800Z is a very stable projector and is ideally suited to 24/7 operation with low user intervention, making it well suited to this project’s needs.

MAV Techniek selected the Vivitek DU9800Z because it met Stichting Oldenzaalse Musea’s requirements for quality and value for money, as well as offering the reassurance of a five year warranty, which ensures worry-free usage over a long period of time.

Keeping history moving
Due to space and projections requirements, the projector is rested on its side, enabling it to project in portrait format, while a projector lift on wheels from Audipack is used to raise and tilt it. It projects onto a surface that is approximately 25 metres high and 14 metres wide, to create a display with real impact. Day to day, the projector is stored inside the museum and, on occasions, it is rolled over to the church where volunteers use it to project onto the walls of the historical building.

Thanks to this inspired project, residents of and visitors to Oldenzaal can now experience a piece of the city’s history in a public space, bringing life to stories that are normally only accessible via closed archives. The combined efforts of TriMotion, MAV Techniek, the Stichting Oldenzaalse Musea and Vivitek, means that these animations will create awareness and appreciation for the history of the city for many more years to come.