It's always important that we look after our historical sites so that future generations can learn from the past's mistakes and successes, but it doesn't mean the site has to stay static forever.
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At the Old Fort at Constitution Hill in Johannesburg, new life has been breathed into a stoic site, once known as the Johannesburg Jail where white male political and common law prisoners were held. Some prominent former inmates include Joe Slovo - leader of the SA Communist Party - and even Nelson Mandela, who was the jail's only black prisoner in order to curb his influence with other black prisoners.
It was decommissioned in 1983, a century after it was built, and has since then become a place where locals and foreign visitors can come reflect on the past and understand the role it played in the journey to democracy.
In order to help make these lessons more accessible to a modern generation, the Old Fort has gone through a high-tech upgrade to create a more immersive visitor experience.
One of the new additions includes a hologram of Slovo himself in his cell, making history alive. Audio-visual storytelling, game-like activities and other design elements also create a self-guided experience that will change the way you see museums.
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(Photo: Formula D)
(Photo: Formula D)
But the upgrade has not come without challenges. Michael Wolf, CEO of Formula D who designed the transformation, says creating an environment that children and families could really appreciate and enjoy, as well as designing attractions that appeal to a diverse group of local and international guests, were two of their biggest challenges.
“Many museums in South Africa struggle to get feet through the door, because their traditional fashion of presenting content doesn’t work for their audiences anymore. Formula D uses technology, good storytelling and asks questions and encourage the audience to build their own opinions. At the Old Fort, our intention is to unlock the site’s history in manners that encourage critical thinking for visitors of various age groups and educational backgrounds”, says Wolf.
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