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app-review history-of-culture museums Uncategorized Virtual Reality Vr

Travel through time with “Live the Past”


My fascination with virtual reality began when I l learned that VR could transport me around the world, to places past, present, and imagined. I’m rather obsessed with apps like Gala 360 and Google Arts & Culture that allow users to travel in VR to museums and historic places. I was particularly excited, though, when I found the app “Live the Past,” by the National Archaeological Museum of Spain. “Live the Past” provides the opportunity to “walk” through the streets of Spanish villages as they existed from prehistory through the modern period. Wow!

A docent talking about life in Spain in Prehistory

What is “Live in the Past?”

“Live the Past,” a VR app by the National Archaeological Museum of Spain, is an exciting example of how museums are beginning to use VR to teach and engage. Users can explore Spanish villages during five different eras: Prehistory, Protohistory, Roman, Medieval, and Modern. Within each era, users may choose between a guided tour and a self-guided walkthrough. My preference is to begin each era with the guided tour and then explore the village further on my own. With the guided tour, a docent guides the user through the village. The docent highlights important features that illustrate cultural and technological developments that shaped the village. At the end of the guided tour, the user may return to the main menu or continue with self-guided exploration. Walking through the village independently, the user can enter spaces that are not visited in the guided tour including rooms, buildings, caves, and additional streets. The entire experience was curated by a team of curators at the National Archaeological Museum.

A Spanish village in Protohistory. The self-guided tour allows users to walk off paths and into some buildings.

Why does this experience need to be in VR?

Virtual reality is essential for this experience. Not only does virtual reality allow the user to experience the size and scale of a door, a room, a house, a village, a boat, but it also helps the user to create connections between these elements. For example, in the guided tour of a home in Roman Espania, the docent explains how people often lived in apartments above the village businesses. As I walked through the rooms of the apartment, I was impressed by how residents took advantage of the upper floor location. They captured rainwater through an opening in the roof and brought light into the home by organizing the living spaces around a central patio that opened to the sky. And, with all these advantages they were still just steps away from shops and services in the village. As the user learns through exploration villages in later eras, this design of the home around an open patio became a distinctive feature that continued to define Spanish homes into the modern era.

A docent on the street of a village in Roman Espania. Businesses were located at street level. Most buildings had 2nd floor residential apartments. The next stop on the guided tour was the interior of an apartment.

The verdict

“Live the Past,” by the National Archaeological Museum of Spain, is an engaging and intuitive app that allows users to experience the development of Spanish villages through time. Sounds of seagulls and singing, along with details like legumes in a vendor’s crates of fish smoking over a fire, add depth to the experience.

The options of a guided tour or self-guided walkthrough give the user a great deal of control over their experience. The guided tour brings depth and insight to the experience, while the walkthrough gives users the opportunity to explore not visited by the docent. The guided tour is offered in Spanish and English; however some English-speaking users may find that the strong accent of the docent initially can be difficult to understand.

The app will certainly appeal to anyone interested in history and Spanish culture. However, I also recommend it to anyone looking for a peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle of life today.

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