The Romanovs can arguably be called the world's first photo-bloggers. In the early 20th century they documented every meaningful event in their lives. #Romanovs100 is an image-first digital storytelling project built on the analysis of thousands of photos shot by Russia’s last Royal family, executed by the Bolsheviks 100 years ago. To make history come to life in the world of digital platforms, we partnered with the Russian State Archive to retrieve 4,000 actual analogue images once stored in the private albums. These images were converted into platform-specific social media narratives on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram with accounts on each network showcasing unique format and content.
This vast family chronicle is a detailed first-hand witness account of the early 20th century - for decades this part of Russian history was eradicated from school-books and kept in the dark during Soviet rule. Working on this large set of visual data and adapting our research to digital formats allows us to make history easily accessible to, and deeply engaging for younger audiences.
#Romanovs100 culminated in AR photo album which enhances this experience of learning history. It combines the visual language of photography with AR tech to create an interactive narrative focused on a humane story.
- create an immersive educational project that can resonate with “new generations” fully-adapted to social media
- transform content to an interactive AR book which makes learning experiences an emotional journey into history
- introduce new approaches which can be effectively used in history education courses
Our challenge was to design an interactive multimedia book mixing history with new digital realities but to also create something personal and concurrent, connecting two totally different eras. In our design choices we wanted to create a feeling of intimacy: all images are unedited photos in original exposure with the same tints and colors as when developed by the Romanovs and pasted into albums with their own hands. This is why we chose the ‘bound photo-album’ format and complemented it with an AR app to fill the digital gap.
The purpose of AR is to extend the storytelling through limitations implied by print, and to allow readers become active co-creators of the unfolding story.
The app provides an immersive journey into history triggering three interaction types:
- informative (videos, galleries, maps): uses extended reality to tell additional stories through swipeable galleries, AR infographic, short video documentaries rolling inside photos
- visual (panoramas, now/then AR images): AR app allows zoom-in on high-resolution images to experience them from different angles
- emotional (love letters, colorizations, VR animation art): 3D animations which come to life on the book pages offering a fresh emotional connection to the Romanov family. It creates a learning experience through artistic and playful adventure.
#Romanovs100 photo album is a post-digital product due to its trans-media print/AR elements. Extended reality here is a legitimate tool without which the storytelling would lack breadth and depth. Through mixing AR with actual photos, the book breaks traditional print format boundaries to create a new kind of history text that is informative, engaging and interactive, designed to educate and inspire future self-learners.
We also created a virtual AR book which you can experience anywhere. Аll you need to do is to scale your surroundings in the special mode inside AR app and tap to activate the book. Selected AR elements from the full print version will launch right beside you.
#Romanovs100 aims to show that learning history can be compelling and interactive. It targets younger audiences with innovative formats and digital approaches in educational storytelling.
#Romanovs100 has been selected to showcase at one of the world’s biggest educational festivals - SXSW EDU 2019 in Austin, Texas where we exclusively presented the AR book.
The response from educators and students was overwhelming as we handed over dozens of copies to public libraries, to universities of Texas, Phoenix, New York, Cornell and other educational institutions who showed high interest. The book was shortlisted by D&AD, one of the most coveted creative prizes, and is now being exhibited across the world also reaching young creatives, students and school children. The book is now available for free download. Besides that, anyone who needs a print edition to use in studying or educational research can request a hard copy of the AR album via website. The book is now being delivered to selected educational institutions globally.
In general, #Romanovs100 had a remarkable impact across social media. The project generated over 25 million impressions & gathered around 55,000 fans & followers combined. Social media posts generated over 1 million engagements.
The project received global media coverage, featuring in The History Extra magazine, BBC News Hour, Tatler, Sky News, Daily Mail, and more.
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