The "New life of old Narva" exhibition, located in Narva Town Hall, Estonia, invites users on a virtual reality journey back to Narva as it was in the late 1930s, a time when the city was hailed as the "Baroque Pearl of the Baltic Sea". Utilizing a vast collection of photos and descriptions from that era, visitors can now immerse themselves in a virtual representation of the captivating Town Hall square that once enchanted both local and distant travelers. Immersion is created through personal tales of Narva's inhabitants.
"Narva has a long history. It’s a town that’s been governed by the Danes, the Germans, the Russians, the Swedes and the Estonians. Every century has had an impact. More than once Narva has been burned down and built back up again. World War II was no exception – Narva became a town on the frontline, a battleground between two empires. In March of 1944 the advancing Soviet troops bombarded Narva with exceptional force and destroyed almost all of the Old Town."
The Town Hall square was strategically chosen as the focal point for this VR experience. Town hall is one of the few buildings remaining from the 1930s, bridging the gap between historical and contemporary Narva. This square, pulsating with life, hosted the city's most momentous events. Using archival materials we had the opportunity to recreate the square as it was in the 1930s, and to bring back to life the people who once walked its streets.
This model draws heavily from archival resources, notably the photographs taken by Carl Sarap in the late 1930s and the meticulous surveys conducted by the city surveyor, F. Kabanov, between 1923-1927. As there were almost no blueprints of the buildings, we had to rely on the photographs and the surveyor's notes to recreate the buildings. The model is based on the original measurements of the buildings, and the textures are based on the photographs. Virtual reconstruction of the city was done by architects to ensure accurate city proportions were retained.
The essence of the exhibition is rooted in the personal tales of Narva's inhabitants. These narratives are based on the memories of the people who lived in Narva in the 1930s. The story's dramaturgy is credited to theatre dramaturg Oliver Issak, with expert consultations from mayor of Narva and author of several books on Narva, Katri Raik, historian Madis Tuuder, and the Narva Museum.
Technically, the experience runs on stand-alone Meta Oculus 2 headsets. Using stand-alone headsets was a requirement set by the client, aiming to give the visitors as "mobile" an experience as possible. Given their performance, which is comparable to that of a mobile phone, these headsets cannot rival the graphics of current 3D games or animated films. The VR journey's visual approach incorporates cutout segments from 1930s photographs, and when melded with precisely modeled structures, it crafts a visually rich environment that revives yesteryear moments. The exhibition places significant emphasis on narratives brought to life by skilled voice actors in four languages.
The experience is designed to be used by people of all ages and backgrounds. Exhibition has tactile exhibits for visually impaired visitors. The experience is available in Estonian, English, Finnish and Russian.
↳ Mikk Meelak, Mikk Pärast, Marje Kask, Annika Tähepõld, Elina Liiva, Anneli Kripsaar, Helena Koop, Magnus Harjak, Andreas Wagner, Albert Kerstna, Kseniia Darmostuk
↳ Raul Kalvo, Lauri Läänelaid
Furniture construction → Random Solutions
Texts and audio
Dramaturge → Oliver Issak
Historical study → Karin Paulus
↳ Katri Raik, Madis Tuuder, Narva Muuseum
Audio → Arian Levin
↳ Maarja Merivoo-Parro, Aleksandr Zemzurov, Kaspar Velberg, Tatjana Kosmõnina, Mika Keränen
Translations and editing
↳ Muupel OÜ, Mikko Savikko, Helena Sepp, Jari Kallionsivu