Wrocław has a beautiful history going back many centuries. It abounds in periods of war and peace, the flourishing of the city, power shifts, the emergence of new buildings and entire neighbourhoods, the birth and death of many famous personalities, as well as other landmark events that must be saved from oblivion.
In 2009, the Wrocław City Museum staged the exhibition called “1000 years of Wroclaw”. It attracted unflagging interest from both city residents and tourists from all corners of the globe. However, as the world is moving forward and visitors are looking for new exhibition techniques, not available at the time when the exhibition was set up, the museum decided to upgrade. We were appointed to do a demanding task of designing and creating a new set design and modern AV systems that would allow visitors to travel in time for a while and personally experience the fascinating events happening in Wroclaw over the past millennium.
The main challenge we faced when designing AV systems for the Wrocław City Museum was to blend new solutions with the existing exhibition – to integrate the devices into the layout of rooms and adapt the existing electrical and teletechnical infrastructure to the requirements of the new exhibition. With these changes, we were able to put in place modern solutions while maintaining the original design of the rooms.
At the beginning of the tour, the museum visitors are greeted by a large-format Digital Signage monitor in the guards area. It acts as a multimedia notice board, displaying information about temporary exhibitions, events at the museum and ticket prices.
In the first room of the exhibition, where Wrocław is presented, we have replaced graphics with a digital projection. A short video about milestones in the city’s history, displayed by two projectors with the edge blending function, supplemented the previous scenery with rocks and water flowing on them.
We have equipped the next room with a colonnade. The spaces between the columns were filled with a picture depicting scenes of the battle of Legnica. The backlight graphic captures the visitor’s attention right upon entry into the room.
In the next room, a static model showing the city as it was during the Czech rule, was equipped with a video mapping system. The 3D presentation is an interesting way of presenting the visitors with knowledge about this period of Wroclaw’s history.
The main attraction of the next room, which is devoted to the Reformation period, is a projection in the decorative, stylized picture frame. It presents the history of the St. Elżbieta Węgierska basilica in Wrocław, one of the oldest churches in the city. The short animation has successfully replaced the static image, telling the legend of the storm that destroyed the church spire and of the angels who protected people from being hurt by a helmet falling from that spire.
The next room has a wall that serves as a large-format projection screen, taking visitors for a walk through the now non-existing, Europe-famous gardens of Dr Laurentius Scholz von Rosenau. Plant diversity and richness of these 16th-century gardens arouse great admiration to this day.
In the room dedicated to the history of the University of Wrocław we created a ceiling to imitate the fresco from the vault of the Oratorium Marianum. Properly illuminated, the flexible fabric with printed graphics encourages visitors to look up and admire the replication of the work of art.
The next room is a natural-size model of the dining room from the times of the Hohenzollern dynasty. We have provided mannequins in historical costumes and replicas of chairs to show a realistic scene of a noble family dining.
In the music room of Karl Eduard von Holtei, we have created a projection system with the existing wallpaper serving as a screen. The animation of dancing people and the accompanying sound system will make the visitors feel like at an eighteenth-century ball. So as not to spoil this feeling, the projector was hidden in a stylized chest under the piano.
The next room is a photo studio that we have equipped with two raree shows – however, we replaced this old way of displaying photos with an LCD monitor put in a dedicated case, which helped achieve higher image quality and, more importantly, made operation much easier than with the original device.
The next room has one of the museum’s more characteristic attractions: a mock-up of a 19th-century tram. Once static, today with a rear projection in the tram windows, the mock-up became a moving scene depicting everyday life of the Wrocław residents at that time. The animation is accompanied by sound from two broadband speakers hidden in the lower part of the mock-up, emitting the buzz of tram passengers talking.
We have equipped the next room with a system for projecting images on MDFs. The image displayed presents the history of Wrocław during the Weimar Republic – a short but eventful period.
Moving on to the next room, the visitor finds a Wrocław street as it was during World War II. The scenery installed there, a damaged piece of pavement and a remote-controlled, small-sized Goliath tracked mine, was expanded with a banner with a themed print and a projection screen, presenting a video about the most important events during the war.
The room that tells the story of Wrocław during the time of Stalinism was equipped with a banner projection system. The graphics supplemented with a short video describe in detail the fate of Wroclaw after 1945.
One of the more memorable museum rooms is the one devoted to the events from the time of the Polish People’s Republic (PRL). It contains an interrogation room with menacing policemen dummies. When the visitor steps into the marked spot, he can feel like during an interrogation for a moment. Thanks to the use of a directional loudspeaker, the questions seem to be addressed directly to the interrogated person, and tourists standing farther cannot hear them. In the second part of the room, an old television set broadcasts an address by Wojciech Jaruzelski when he was announcing imposition of martial law.
In the last room of the tour we created a projection system consisting of three projectors presenting alternating statements of famous Wrocław residents, including Professor Jan Miodek or crime story writer Marek Krajewski. The system has been supplemented with broadband speakers. The exhibition is perfectly summarized by the flattering words of famous personalities talking about the city.
In some rooms, we have also supplied props to form part of the exhibition design. These included, for example, UV prints on plywood, depicting family members of Edyta Stein and two girls symbolizing families resettled to Wrocław. Many museum spaces have also been equipped with blinds with printed graphics corresponding to the themed room. In addition, we have created new descriptions for display cases and information boards with basic facts about the corresponding historical period.
The final phase of the exhibition upgrade was establishment of a central exhibition management system. Indispensable in any museum equipped with modern technologies, this system can be used for remote operation and monitoring of devices (including task scheduling) and changing the displayed multimedia from the administrator’s computer. This system has significantly facilitated control of the exhibition.
Nowadays, history is no longer told by old, dust-covered books, but by modern, interactive media. Interesting exhibits no longer suffice to arouse visitors’ interest: the manner of their presentation has become equally important. However, the plethora of images and sounds should not obliterate the main goal of the exhibition, which is to transfer knowledge, which has the greatest value even today. We hope we have achieved this goal.