RETOLD: Report year three (2023)

RETOLD will last four years only. In December 2022, the third year commenced. We did a lot, but ended the year, knowing which challenges were left unsolved.

In January 2023 the accountant who will do the final audit / reporting of the project (EXARC part) had a look at the first two project years. We wanted to be sure that the system is clear, that all the files can be found and are properly connected to the reporting form. In this way the work of the audit at the end of the project can be done faster, as he will only need to check the last two years and make the final report. The accountant's feedback was very useful, and we can for sure apply their comments and requests to the rest of the partners when explaining which documents are really needed, and how things are checked. 

In Berlin, in the Museum Village Düppel, exciting steps were taken in winter 22-23. Their village and the surroundings are based on excavation results of a real medieval settlement from around 1200 AD. Can Düppel be digitized? They want to create a digital museum village which can be used in virtual- and augmented reality for education. We can also use digital models to show alternative interpretations of house reconstruction as well as engaging new visitor groups with cultural heritage through virtual and augmented realities.

In February 2023, EXARC worked with the three RETOLD museums partners to develop the second stage of the exhibition, each of the partners is holding at their premises. In 2022 we developed banners which explained the project goals and the partners. The 2023 topic was about Documenting Houses. Each partner selected one house that they either built, based on an excavation (archaeological open-air museums) or translocated from a different location to preserve (historical open-air museum / skansen). We followed a very structured approach, leading to highly accessible results.

Early March 2023, the RETOLD Lead Partner EXARC had the chance to visit the Steinzeitpark Dithmarschen in Schleswig, Germany. Occasion was the official opening of their new museum building; an excellent opportunity for preparations of the RETOLD meeting which would take place there in Autumn-Winter 2023. 

In the same month, The RETOLD project was beginning to show its first technological results. The working prototype of our digital documentation tool for open-air museums was under construction. Plan was, to have this presented at the RETOLD meeting in Sibiu in April, so the project partners could test it and give and feedback before we would do more testing with other museums.

Early Spring 2023, we spent a short week at The Complexul National Muzeal ASTRA in Sibiu, Romania. We discussed every aspect of documenting, digitising, and sharing. We started with a simple but revealing SWOT analysis and discussion on the digital maturity of our kind of museums, their staff, and visitors. Our colleagues from Universitat Autónoma de Barcelona showed us a prototype of the app for documenting museums. Unfortunately, there was too much still missing to test it properly. Nüwa spent a good amount of time on explaining photogrammetry and 3D software. Several models of buildings at ASTRA were created and uploaded to the RETOLD documentation app as tests. Special thanks go to the craft demonstrations which offered their own documentation challenges we still need to solve.

Early July 2023, RETOLD visited Museumsdorf Düppel in Berlin, Germany for a photogrammetry training. One of the avenues of RETOLD is that we create 3D models of the houses in these museums. These models are then dressed with all kinds of information. After only two days, the staff was trained well, so they now can make 3D models on their own, understanding all steps in the process. EXARC was included in this visit to Berlin for some strategic conversations on how to proceed with the project as well as seeing things progressing in person.

In the Summer, we selected a few non-RETOLD open-air museums, to test the new app. The app is to document buildings: you mostly use photos and a sequence of questions for the initial setting up of a house, which then is followed by for example notes on maintenance. We soon realised that there were several important issues with the app, so we stopped testing quite fast.

Where we could not meet early in the RETOLD project, this year we met several times. Our third and last meeting of the year was at the Steinzeitpark Dithmarschen, Germany in early autumn 2023. We discussed the slow progress of our tool which should be launched only one year later. Unfortunately, there was no new version of the prototype app accessible. As digital storytelling is much about communication, we used the occasion to produce a lot of images and videos as well as 3D models. 

In the last months of 2023, we worked with the new UAB team to redesign the app and solve the issues of the previous prototype. The forms have been evaluated and are easier to include in the app. At the same time, we again discussed all options about CIDOC and the future use of the app. Discussions continued into 2024, as did the work of the new developer team.