Partners: Association Center for Social Innovations BLINK 42-21 Skopie and National Institution for Management of the Archaeological Site of Stobi, North Macedonia; Archaeological Institute Belgrade and Archaeological Park Viminacium, Serbia; City Museum Ljubljana – Archaeological Park Emona and the computer systems design company Navipro d.o.o, Slovenia; the Balkan Heritage Foundation, Bulgaria and Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece.
Period of the Project: 2021-2022
Funded by: European Commission and National Fund for Culture in Bulgaria. The project partners received a total of 395.183 EUR funding from the Creative Europe program and another 5835 BGN secured by the Balkan Heritage Foundation through the National Fund for Culture in Bulgaria.
The project “Immersive Storytelling Driven Cooperation for Cultural Heritage Dissemination in the Western Balkans” took place in the period 2021 – 2022 in a series of meetings and workshops in which the participants shared their knowledge and experience in order to develop an innovative technological product to bring the stories of the past to life. The project’s goal, which was realized through a newly developed app, was to use immersive technologies to increase visitors’ interest in selected archaeological sites in the Western Balkans and attract a wider audience. The result was the Immersium – Cultural Heritage Storytelling App, which offers an interactive experience and visually attractive presentation of three archaeological sites from the Roman period: Stobi in North Macedonia, Viminacium in Serbia and Emona in Slovenia.
The project partners were representatives of governmental and non-governmental organizations from North Macedonia, Greece, Slovenia, Serbia and Bulgaria with experience in immersive technologies, management of cultural heritage and education related to it.
In 2021 two meetings were planned for all partners – one in North Macedonia and one in Slovenia. During these initial meetings, they discussed the potential of cultural institutions in the Western Balkans to use digital technologies. They also looked for the most suitable methods and technologies for developing a product for creating virtual/augmented reality experiences in the archaeological sites of Stobi (North Macedonia), Viminacium (Serbia) and Emona (Slovenia).
During a third week-long meeting organized by Aristotle University in Thessaloniki, a methodology for creating immersive stories related to cultural heritage was developed. Three of the proposed projects were chosen and awarded prizes and developed as final products for the project in collaboration with the Association center for social innovations BLINK 42-21 and Navipro d. o. o.
In 2022 the Balkan Heritage Foundation organized three week-long workshops in the archaeological sites of Stobi, Viminacium and Emona. They were oriented towards students and young professionals in archaeology, history, art history, museum studies, marketing and management for cultural heritage, design, animation, creative writing and computer technologies from the Western Balkans and the European Union. Each workshop featured different lecturers, workshops, open discussions, fieldwork, a hackathon and cultural trips. The participants also had the opportunity to test the app created for each site and give their feedback and ideas for improvement.
The Immersium – Cultural Heritage Storytelling App (available in four languages for both Android and iOS) is now live for the sites of Stobi, Viminacium and Emona, as well as advertising materials translated into the corresponding language. There were several presentations of the app for government officials from each respective country in which the archaeological site is located.
“Cultural heritage represents an incredible meeting point for collaboration of the cultural and creative sectors. Its value lays in the storytelling potential it offers. Visitors often lack engagement, learning opportunity, as well as shearing the relevant information in a creative and concise manner. General information sharing is problematic on cultural heritage sites in the Western Balkans, since they lack good visual presentation and audience engagement. The needs, as well as the attention span of the audiences are drastically changing so the aforementioned institutions must adapt to the new environment and the contemporary digital shift.
The specific needs of these sites, due to their more conservative, historically preconditioned concept of presentation, provide a bigger challenge for innovation and joint collaboration with creative industries. The highly competitive market for attracting audience demands from them to develop new strategies and foster progressive collaboration that allows them to stand out and succeed. This requires creation of an innovative dissemination cooperation, based on the use of advanced technologies and the enhancement of user experience.
These challenges are not unique to cultural heritage institutions of a particular country but rather distinctive to the whole Western Balkans. Therefore, a new Storytelling Driven Cooperation designed with the intention to build up capacities of the aforementioned institutions with a final goal to develop more immersive storytelling experiences for the visitors of cultural heritage sites is essential. This project will further extend the cooperation between the project partners and provide a base for development of the capacities of cultural institutions to explore the capabilities of immersive storytelling in creating narratives and experiences that will attract new audiences and disseminate the values of cultural heritage further.”