Blending WW2 History with the Present in an Interactive Virtual Heritage Experience

Authors: Anderson, E.F. and Cousins, T.

Conference: IKUWA7: 7th Congress for Underwater Archaeology

Dates: 6-9 June 2022


In June 2019 several amphibious tank wrecks that sank off the Dorset Coast during the WW2 landing "Exercise Smash", rehearsing for D-Day in Southern England, became scheduled monuments. To engage new audiences with this WW2 heritage that otherwise would only be accessible to divers, we have created a virtual heritage experience that extends the virtual dive trail concept to a fully interactive exploration of the wreck sites, combined with the experience of a snapshot in history that allows audiences to travel back in time to participate in the historical military training "Exercise Smash". Our virtual experience first lets audiences take part in the event that resulted in the submerged archaeology, conveying the story through a serious game tasking them to land one of the swimming tanks on the beach without sinking. The subsequent present-day virtual dive to the wrecks takes place in a detailed virtual environment, populated with simulations of local marine life and incorporating interaction modes of entertainment games. Built using computer game infrastructure, our virtual experience manifests an innovative synthesis of both tangible and intangible cultural heritage, the former as the interactive exploration of archaeological remains and the latter in the guise of the serious game providing the historical context and conveying the notion of "being there when it happened".

Following a limited public trial of our virtual heritage experience at a museum event, we are currently preparing it for deployment as a kiosk-style system. While primarily aimed at museum audiences we are also exploring possible deployment on-line.

Source: Manual