Special installation in the lace and fashion museum of Calais

Holographic research project

The lace and fashion Museum of Calais is thinking about the development of innovative and digital mediation tools in its museum, this will be in addition to objects already present in the museum. For several years, Holusion has been making holographic displays for cultural institutions. Aware of the importance of always redesigning our mediation tools, we have created a partnership with the City of Lace and Fashion in Calais. The aim of this project is to create a prototype to facilitate the understanding of the relief map of Calais.

The museum owns a 25m² relief map. It represents the post industrial revolution of the city. Despite some mistakes, it is a witness of Calais's history. In fact, during the industrial revolution and the industrialization of lacemaking the city experiences a demographic upheaval : the population increases a lot and Calais and St Pierre are merged.

This map is a key element of the exhibition of the lace and fashion museum, included in their permanent tour. It is now explained by the installation, around the relief map, of labels on the history of each building (casino, town hall, customs barracks… ).

Research on current museum issues

Emergence of digital technology in museums :

New technologies in museums are a sensitive subject in the museum world. It leads to questions on its uses. Before the 1980's, digital technology had no place in cultural spaces. Indeed, there was a separation between the digital and traditional museum world. The whole mediation tool was made thanks to labels. Slowly, audio guides emerged in museums to simplify the visits. Step by step, some exhibitions such as Cités cinés in 1987 in France and in Quebec or Mémoires d'Egypte in 1990 in Paris, considered digital tools as an actor of the visits.

Nowadays, digital technology is an integral part of museum space. The museum are looking forward to be more innovative than their competitors and digital tools are becoming a mean of attracting the visitors. However, many devices are created and the users may have trouble to get used to it. They must relearn the ergonomics of each tool. This is why a work on the use is necessary before the introduction of a new digital device.

Reflection on mediation devices:

picture of a label in front of a piece of art

Focus on the co-location of information :

The cultural mediation devices, whether they are digital or not are studied in order to extract issues and benefits. One of the common problems is the co-location of information. That is to say, the fact that the work and its informations are located in different fields of vision. The information is often indicated by paper or digital labels which forces the visitors to look both at the work and the explanations, which does not allow them to draw all the emotion sought by the artist. That’s why, Frederic Kaplan, Professor of Digital Humanities, ironically asks the question: "Does the label explain the work or is it the work that completes the label?". We decided to work on this problem with the aim of avoiding the dissociation between the information and the work.

Holographic mapping is a very efficient solution because it is a technique used to project a hologram on an object (real or 3D reproduction) present inside the holographic terminal. Thus, it is possible to show the characteristics of a work in details, to reproduce the missing or erased elements, to describe its history ... Moreover, our holographic technology is based on an optical illusion created thanks to reflection and transparency, so there is no danger for the works.

Train station holographic mapping prototype :

explanation about the holographic installation

Designing an innovative mediation device which answers the information location problem on a relief plan is complicated because the work is extremely large and the elements are, in comparison, very small.

To achieve this, we had to rethink our holographic terminal. The distance between the projector screen and the glass had to be equal to the distance between the element of the relief plan and the glass. The visitors, children or adults, can see the reflection of the screen in the glass at the place where they observe the figure.

3D modelling of the holographic installation

Installation of the holographic device

During the Heritage Days (Open days of historical monuments in France), the prototype was installed at the City of Lace and Fashion in Calais. It projected on the train station a hologram that allowed the visitor to understand the history of the building that no longer exists. The voice of Lucien, a salesman from the lacemaking era gives explanations about Calais’s train station to the visitors. The device combines emotion and information.

The strengths of the installation

photo of the holographic device around the train station
  • Holographic Mapping: Thanks to the mapping, the hologram is placed at the exact level of the station. The viewer can see at the same time both information and work
  • Protection of the work : In museums, it is important to think about the conservation of works. The holographic projection is totally respectful of the work because no light is projected on it.
  • The visitor becomes actor : The installation allows the visitor to be an actor of his visit. Indeed, when he stands in front of the prototype, the hologram is visible. But when he moves away, the hologram disappears!
  • Emotion and information : The soundtrack and the hologram allows the visitor to be transported in an imaginary world while having a realistic visualization of the evolution of the historical building.

To be continued...

photo du plan relief de la Cité de la dentelle et de la mode de Calais

To go further (articles in French)