SFU researchers bring ancient Greece to life at the Museum of Vancouver
By Chris Dickert
Ever wished you could travel back in time to ancient Greece? Time travel is still a concept for the future, but SFU researchers have launched the next best thing at the Museum of Vancouver. Between Worlds: Greek Civilization XR Experience uses the latest in virtual and augmented reality to transport museum visitors across time and space, to the age of Plato and Pericles.
Using 3D goggles, visitors are immersed in a virtual reconstruction of the historical Tholos at Delphi Temple of Athena Pronaia, and can even make a votive offering to the Oracle. There is also a virtual model of the Greek underworld, where museum visitors can teleport through Hades as they complete simple tasks.
An everyday tablet can open a doorway painted on the gallery wall, where visitors can see into the courtyard of an ancient Greek villa; women and men in period costumes mill about in conversation, while a brazier burns on a bright sunny day.
At another station, a tablet—mounted in a round shield, straight out of Frank Miller’s graphic novel, 300 —brings to life a still scene of ships projected onto a wall. Soon, visitors are transported to the deck of a Greek trireme – an oared warship – in the aftermath of the 5th century BCE Battle of Salamis. The clouds glow bright orange from the fires of defeated ships.
The exhibit is currently in the pilot stage and only open to elementary students until January 2020, as the project team fine-tunes the technology. Once fully developed, the technology will be able to transport museum visitors to any number of historical times and locations, from the ancient Parthenon in Athens to a Coast Salish longhouse in the Pacific Northwest. This will especially benefit remote communities, which can be transported virtually to participating museum partners throughout the world, at minimal cost.
The exhibit was curated by educators working in SFU’s Stavros Niarchos Foundation Centre for Hellenic Studies, a leading centre for the study of Greece in North America, in collaboration with the Museum of Vancouver and developed under the auspices of the Greek Ambassador to Canada, His Excellency Dimitris Azemopoulos.
Technical work was completed by the SNF New Media Lab and SFU professor Nick Hedley’s Spatial Interface Research Lab, as part of the Rebooting the Greek Language project. The two-year, $2-million project combines new advances in pedagogy and mobile technologies to create learning tools for Greek language education in Canada, the United States, Europe and beyond.