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The Danish Castle Centre: where history keeps up with the times

10/12/2015
Wow! That’s most people’s reaction when they visit the Danish Castle Centre. The museum is located in Vordingborg on southern Zealand, an hour’s drive from Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark. It is an example of how museums can be both entertaining and meaningful for a wide audience.

Huge magnificent buildings, powerful alliances and buckets of blue blood make the Middle Ages eternally exciting. But, whereas many museums are behind the times, still conveying dreary facts and rattling off endless dates on posters scattered amidst a forest of objects, the Danish Castle Centre has adopted a modern approach. 

The newly built Castle Centre was constructed on the site of the largest ruined castle in Denmark, and just about all information is presented on a digital iPad guide. The guide contains animations, stories, illustrations, and films, and even has its own soundtrack. Meanwhile, the hundreds of historical objects, which museums usually exhibit, have been replaced by 42 specially selected finds from the Middle Ages.

History for everyone

“With the iPad guide we enable you to customise your own experience. That means you get a meaningful and relevant story, whether you’re retired history teacher or an 8-year-old boy with a passion for knights and castles,” says Keld Møller Hansen, Director of the Danish Castle Centre.

“For us it’s all about creating a museum experience, which can attract a variety of target groups – not just people, who usually visit museums. I believe that today’s museums, if they wish to survive, should be ready to compete with the countless other experiences available and be able to attract many different kinds of visitors. That is why our inspiration was a cinematic experience, in which we impact many senses, instead of just displaying ancient objects with long texts to accompany them,” says Keld Møller Hansen.

With the iPad guide in your hand, you can open up stories about each of the objects presented. They tell a story, which is much bigger than themselves. So a beautiful French enamel cross from the 13th century turns into a story about the relationship between the king and the church in the Middle Ages.

The iPad guide from Nous Guide in Austria also makes it possible to complement the stories with animation and film, injecting even more life into the ancient things and creating greater interaction with visitors.

The exhibition at the Danish Castle Centre is divided into a number of themes, each with its own atmosphere, created by huge, artistic projections on the walls behind the exhibition display cases and a soundtrack in the headphones that changes as visitors move around the exhibition.

Ghost hunting in the ruins 

The Castle Centre’s iPads have also been given special cases, which make them resistant to water, dust and shock. That is necessary, because the ruins of the enormous castle, on which the Caste Centre is built, offer loads more experiences. They come to life when the audience enters the castle’s grounds and the iPad’s GPS is activated.

“This was once the site of Denmark’s largest and most important royal castle. From here the Danish kings ruled a vast Baltic kingdom, which stretched from Hamburg to northern Norway and Estonia. But today the gigantic castle is a ruin and the problem is that you have to be a historian or an archaeologist to understand the fascinating history, which is concealed here,” says Keld Møller Hansen.

But the Danish Castle Centre and Nous Guide have solved that problem with the help of the iPad guide. If you take it with you outside, you can actually see the castle in Augmented Reality on the screen. Suddenly you hear stories about an event that occurred in the Middle Ages, as you stand on exactly the spot where it all happened. That means that digital exploration of the Middle Ages takes on another dimension outdoors. This is particularly apparent, when you catch ghosts in the specially produced Ghost Hunt game. 

“If children in Vordingborg and the surrounding area have nightmares about ‘the scary waterman’ and ‘the graveyard boar’, then Nous and the game-producer Ghost VFX are to blame.” Keld Møller Hansen laughs as he refers to the game, in which the aim is to catch supernatural beings, which people in the Middle Ages believed in and were afraid of. The game has become immensely popular with both adults and children. It is yet another completely new way of describing history, which the Danish Castle Centre has been successful with.

Increasing popularity

The success is clearly evident. The major Danish newspapers have given top marks to the Castle Centre, writing, for example, that it is a “wonderful interactive experience.” This is also evident in the number of visitors, which is steadily rising.

But the Danish Castle Centre is not resting on its laurels. Just one year after opening, they opened the doors on yet another experience: “The Goose Tower Under Siege”. A huge projection wall in the 650-year-old castle tower gives you the experience of what a siege must have looked like in the mid-14th century.

“Here history keeps up with the times, So although we are describing an age that is long past, the experience of it and the story of it must constantly keep moving. I think we’re doing pretty well here at the Danish Castle Centre,” concludes Keld Møller Hansen. 

Client Museum Sydøstdanmark
Date Spring 2014
Location Vordingborg, Danmark
Involvement Concept, Content, Design, Implementation
Project Public App, NOUSGuide, The Blue Blood Academy
System NOUS Conductor, Augmented Reality Technology, WIFI Positioning, RFID
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