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Library hosts first exhibition using Augmented Reality

With the success of the Wry ARTificer exhibition for Bert Flugelman, the Library began pushing the boundaries of its physical art exhibition into the digital space with augmented reality (AR) sessions and its first fully-online exhibition experience.

Bert Flugelman had been a part of UOW since 1984. He was a Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Creative Arts and was made University of Wollongong Professorial Fellow, and Doctor of Creative Arts (honoris causea) in 1995.

Bert was an internationally-renowned artist, best known for his large-scale commercial works – including his iconic metal sculptures, Gateway to Mount Keira and Ammonite, located around the Wollongong and Innovation campuses.

The Wry ARTificer exhibition

The Wry ARTificer exhibition which ran from November 2018 to March 2019, focused on the wide variety of Bert’s artistic abilities, from early art school sketches to performances and installations in the 60s, and his clay Lady Pot muses.

Many items displayed in the exhibition were from UOW Archives, the UOW Art Collection, the Flugelman estate, and private collections. Using AR technology, the Library was able to showcase works by Flugelman that were physically too large to include in the exhibition space, for example, Ammonite.

To take the Wry ARTificer exhibition into a digital space and engage students with new technologies, the Library partnered with Learning, Teaching & Curriculum (LTC) to transform Flugelman’s sculptures with augmented reality.

Augmenting the exhibition experience

The initial idea for this AR project was inspired by a trip to the Teaching & Technology “TnT” Hub in 2017 where Library staff engaged with the Microsoft HoloLens technology and saw its potential for use in exhibitions, particularly the then-upcoming Flugelman exhibition in 2018-19.

The Library and UOW MakerSpace pursued the idea and collaborated with LTC team members, including programmers, designers and video staff.

Ross Franks, Multimedia Resources Developer from Technology Enhanced Learning, explained how Flugelman’s monumental sculptures were transformed into augmented reality.

“It was done using the 3D modelling technique photogrammetry, a method where digital objects are created from numerous photos of a subject or through traditional 3D modelling and texturing using reference photos and, in some cases, drone footage.

“These models were then imported into the Unity game engine software where the final 3D lit models and interactivity could be exported directly onto the HoloLens headset ready to be viewed in the exhibition,” Mr Franks says.

Engaging the audience through AR

After successfully re-creating the Ammonite sculpture in augmented reality, the LTC team took to mapping even more of Flugelman’s works into AR, including: the enormous coils of Gateway to Mount Keira, the Lawrence Hargrave Memorial (Winged Figure) at the top of Mount Keira, Making Waves, and Spiral and Wave at the steps of the Wollongong Art Gallery.

The Library and MakerSpace held weekly AR sessions with students in the ground floor of UOW’s library throughout early 2019, encouraging them to try on the Microsoft HoloLens and experience Bert’s giant works for themselves.

MakerSpace Coordinator, Nathan Riggir, says partnering to support the Wry ARTificer exhibition was a great opportunity to showcase the latest emerging technologies available to our student community in the Makerspace.

“Providing access to these technologies, and seeing the practical applications, we hope to encourage students to experiment & create their own AR experiences relevant to their areas of study or personal interests,” Mr Riggir says.

UOW Commerce student, Huynh Nguyen shares her experience of using the AR.

“It was wonderful to see the patterns on the metal surface in detail... I was amazed to see how big the ‘Winged Figure' is – it went through the roof of the Library!”

Wry ARTificer: the online experience

The Wry ARTificer exhibition was a resounding success, with audiences enriched by the variety of works on display and the research done by the Library’s Exhibitions Coordinator, Phillippa Webb.

The Library then built an interactive page as part of the Archives Online website to recreate the physical exhibition experience and experiment with what the Archives Online content management system could do.

Viewers can scroll around the Panizzi Gallery, looking at Bert’s artwork and historical images, reading texts from the walls, and even watching video interviews with Bert’s family and friends.

“We wanted to take people on the Bert journey,” Ms Webb said, “and to give viewers an authentic online experience to the physical exhibition. To achieve this, we made a conscious decision to leave the ceiling and carpet visible in the shot, for the photos of the exhibition walls.”

Visit the online exhibition

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