One of Jerusalem’s most iconic tourist sites is deploying futuristic technology to blend the past and the present, placing it at the vanguard of a revolution in museum experiences.
In October, the Tower of David Museum of the History of Jerusalem hosted an event featuring a forthcoming Innovation Lab that’s a showcase and incubator for the kind of interactive high-tech that museums need to remain relevant for visitors.
The lab — housed in the Pasha Hall, one of the rooms of the Phasael Tower built by King Herod 2,000 years ago — will offer workspace, equipment and a real-time beta site for a constellation of Israeli virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) startups, providing content and support as well as a test market for their products. The initiative is sponsored by JNext, a joint project of the Jerusalem Development Authority, Israel’s Ministry of Jerusalem and Diaspora Affairs, and the Jerusalem municipality.
One of the startups, Inception VR, launched its Tower of David VR experience on Oct. 25. The full Innovation Lab opens to the public on Jan. 1. Visitors can navigate around an interactive map of the site and explore the medieval fortress with one of its previous residents. A Crusader knight guides you to locations around the citadel, explains the history of surrounding landmarks using 3D models and weaves his personal story into the narrative. The Inception app is available across many platforms, including Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Microsoft MR, Samsung Gear, Google Daydream, iOS and Android.
“The Tower of David is another way we are working to give people a chance to experience something they couldn’t anywhere else. Combining the past with the present allows users to experience the centuries-old site like never before,” said Inception CEO Benny Arbel.
Devora Mason, director of the Innovation Lab, praised Inception as “leaders in capturing the essence of the story and sharing it using high-end VR technology. The story of Jerusalem, past and present and future, all come together under one roof, in one courtyard and in one virtual center of the universe through the
creation of this VR experience.”
The Tower of David Museum — a complex near Jaffa Gate that includes an archaeological garden, exhibition halls, panoramic views of Jerusalem, Herodian pools, secret passages, towers and turret — might seem like an unlikely venue for cutting-edge technology. But that’s part of the rationale for the project.
“The future of museums is a global issue,” noted Caroline Shapiro, the museum’s director of international relations. Visitors want to own their experience, she added, and the key is innovation.
Tower of David Museum Director Eilat Lieber explained, “We need the right technology to bring the stories to life and to make the stones speak again.” JN