VR Meets History

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tags: virtual reality

At their annual meeting and MuseumExpo, the American Alliance of Museums award the Silver MUSE to Chicago00 St. Valentine's Day Massacre VR, a groundbreaking virtual reality experience of historical photographs.  

The MUSE is awarded “in recognition of the highest standards of excellence in the use of media & technology,” and most years goes to the largest museum technology projects in the country.  

This year it is won by a start-up: The Chicago 00 Project, a venture by Geoffrey Alan Rhodes, a professor of new media design at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Chicago History Museum, to immerse audiences in new media experiences of history.

St. Valentine’s Day Project

On St. Valentine’s Day 1929, Chicago police discovered in a northside garage the bodies of 7 men, shot in the back and riddled with bullets.  The site and the men were associated with the prohibition-era bootlegging gangs, then led by Al Capone and Bugs Moran.  The gruesome photographs of the scene ran front-page in newspapers across the country and were some of the most influential crime photos in American history.  The resulting outrage turned public opinion against Chicago gangs.

The Chicago00 St Valentine’s Day Massacre VR app, released February 2017, transports audiences to the exact spots where those photos were taken, and superimposes then and now in virtual reality.  The present site is overlaid with matching 1929 crime scene photos in 360 degrees.  Audiences can use their smartphones or wear Google Cardboard VR Goggles to be immersed in the site.  A narrator tells the story of the massacre while giving a virtual tour of 5 sites and over 30 historical photos and documents.

This app is one of three releases by the Chicago 00 Project.  The first in the series, Chicago00 The Eastland Disaster, uses the same technology as Pokémon GO to give an augmented reality tour along the Chicago River.  At the downtown site where the passenger steamship Eastland capsized in 1915, visitors can use their smartphones to see photos and newsreels captured that day superimposed on the exact site where it occurred.  The project’s newest creation was released this January; Chicago00 A Century of Progress is a virtual reality tour of the 1933 A Century of Progress World’s Fair in Chicago—  a massive fair site, highly photographed, that is now almost completely gone.  For the VR experience, they hired local drone photographers to chart the path of the fair’s Skyride, a 219 foot high ride across the entire fairgrounds, and matched it with historical photos.  All three apps are free and available for download in the Android and iPhone marketplaces, or from the project website: www.Chicago00.org

Read entire article at Press Release – Chicago History Museum

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