Voices from the past in Fort Pozzacchio

: Tana Vaclavikova and Anna Pisetti

When the digital content creates a synergy with the physical space
On October 20th, 2015, an exhibition with fully integrated meSch technology opened to the public at the Museo della Guerra in Rovereto, Italy. The installation is based in the section of the museum dedicated to the artillery of the First World War and is focused on the story of fort Pozzacchio, a great Austro-Hungarian stronghold in the Alps of Nothern Italy. The visitor is given the possibility of discovering the story of the fort through the voices of witnesses that have been strongly connected with the fort during the 20th century.

History through the voices of the witnesses

The museum is particularly interested in letting their visitors reflect on the effects that war conflicts had on the civilians and the landscape of the area. With devices developed by Sheffield Hallam University and FBK the museum has been able to enhance their tour for visitors by offering in-depth information on the impact of fort Pozzacchio on the inhabitants of Rovereto, the city which the fort resides above.

The meSch enhanced installation is placed in the section that is dedicated to the artillery of the First World War, which constitutes a separate part of the museum. It is located in an air-raid shelter from the Second World War that was excavated into the hill under which the museum castle was build. The shelter constitutes an ideal location for an exhibition focused on a fort entirely dug into the rock, as the internal physical environment is very similar (dark, humid and cold caverns).

Left: Artillery exhibition room at Museo della Guerra that mimicks the inside of Fort Pozzacchio (right picture).

The aim was to complement factual information (offered by the museum through guiding material, captions, panels and photos) with information related to personal stories, making the visitors feel involved in an emotional experience.

By means of 4 installations placed alongside the museum tour the visitor has been given the possibility of listening to the voices of various people who worked or fought in the fort and whose lives had been somehow influenced by the constant presence of the fort.

The stories are drawn from diaries or memories written during the wartime years or from oral witnesses’ accounts made over the distance of time. In order to introduce the stories to the visitor, we chose to indicate the name and the occupation of the witness and the date the story refers to. The narrations are introduced in chronological order.

The visitor or group of visitors can choose which story listen to and also the order in which they are heard by means of a “pebble” that the visitors are given at the beginning of the tour. The “pebble” was designed to be small and easy to handle and on one side the plan of the fort is depicted. It contains NFC technology in order to not only trigger a single station but also to collect and log data on the stories that the visitors choose to hear.

Left: visitors using the device. Right: The pebble.

In the first station, situated near the ticket office, the visitor can activate videos that introduce the tour: a short video illustrates how the devices work, the second one offers a short presentation of the history of fort Pozzacchio, and the third one consists of a sequence of pictures related to road, tunnel and shelter digging work carried out inside the mountains by the Austro-Hungarian and Italian armies. The nearness of both the ticket office and the next station led to the choice of making these particular videos without audio.


Video tutorial on using the meSch devices at Museo della Guerra.

The second station has been designed inside a small tunnel excavated in the rock: at the back of the cavern animations dedicated to the construction of the fort are displayed. The visitor can pick among 5 narrations of people who worked at the fort: a testimony of the project architect, of a civilian worker, of a woman engaged in the construction of the fort, of an inhabitant of the region who worked at the fort removing its metal parts and gaining profit on it.

Animazione 1 Animazione 2

Above: Sketches.

The third station is dedicated to the voices of the civilian population and to the impact of the fort on their lives. The visitor can choose among 5 audio narrations: there are testimonies of a girl who took part in work at the fort, of a boy enlisted in the army at the outbreak of war in 1914, of a female war refugee, of a man who – once the war was over – went in search of unexploded bombs and, finally, of a girl who went to the fort to play and to graze goats there.

The final station is situated at the rear of the cavern in a corner so that the visitor might perceive the space as private and intimate. Here there are four testimonies on war events that took place in fort Pozzacchio, narrated by both Austro-Hungarian and Italian soldiers played by professional actors.

Soldier 1  Soldier 2

Above: Stills from the soldiers in the videos that are shown at the installation.

At the end of the tour the visitor gives the “pebble” back to the ticket office and is given a printed postcard, which is personalized on the basis of the stories he or she has listened to. The postcard summarizes the visitor’s experience mentioning not only the names of the characters but also briefly describing the central theme of the station where the narration was located (construction of the fort, civilians and the fort, soldiers and war events). Moreover it contains a link to the museum web site where complete and unabridged texts of all the stories can be found.

Cartolina_fronte Cartolina_retro

Above: Personalized postcard, front and backside.

Read more about Personalisation after the visit: keeping a personal connection with the exhibition, the sequel to this blogpost.