Wroclaw, the hometown of A+V, 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 tele-technical infrastructure to the requirements of the new exhibition. With these changes, we were able to put modern solutions in place, 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 reception 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 the city of Wroclaw 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.
The journey through the museum takes us to a room equipped 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 and exciting way of presenting knowledge about this period of Wroclaw’s history to the visitors, especially to the younger part of the audience.
The main attraction of the spacedevoted to the Reformation period, is a projection in the decorative, stylized picture frame. It presents the history of the St. Elzbieta Wegierska basilica in Wroclaw, 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 visitors will then pass a wall that serves as a large-format projection screen, taking them 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 cause great admiration to this day.
In the room dedicated to the history of the University of Wroclaw, 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 museum excursion trail leads to 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. In order not to spoil this feeling, the projector was hidden in a stylized chest under the piano.
When entering the photo studio, the visitors will see two Kaiserpanoramas (peep boxes) – 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 most 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 Wroclaw 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 displayed image presents the history of Wrocaaw during the Weimar Republic – a short but eventful period.
The next part of the journey, takes the visitor to a Wroclaw 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 most memorable museum spaces 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, they can feel like being present 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 further away 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 part of the tour we created a projection system consisting of three projectors showing alternating statements of famous Wroclaw 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 testimonials of famous personalities talking about the city.
In some parts of the museum, we have also supplied props to form part of the exhibition design. These included 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 an implementation of a central exhibition management system. Indispensable in any museum equipped with modern technologies, this system can be used for remote operation and device monitoring (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 excite the visitors and generate more interest: the way andformat in which they are presented 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 and communicate history – the greatest value of the nations and communities. We hope that our audio-visual solutions have helped the Wroclaw City Museum to achieved its goals, and we are honoured to have played our part in the creation of such a unique venue in our hometown.