The island of Suakin, on the Red Sea in Sudan, was a major trading port for centuries. Ships plied their trade and pilgims traveled from here across to the holy city of Mecca. The early 20th Century saw the opening oif the Suez Canal and the flow of much larger ships sailing between Europe and the East. As Suakin was unable to accommodate these ships a new port, Port Sudan was opened just up the coast, Suakin’s trade dwindled and the once-bustling town was largely abandoned, leaving just a few buildings, as we see in the image below.
Despite this decline, Suakin remains a site of significant cultural importance in Sudan and families across the country retain a strong connection with their old home. The Ottoman connetctions with the port were acknowledged in recent years by the contributions of Turkey’s heritage agency, TIKA, to the resoration of some major building. Virtual Experience Company was commissioned, as part of the Sudan Memory project, to create an interactive reconstruction of Suakin, through which it would be possible for Sudanese people to access the rich archives relating to the cultural heritage of the island. The model is designed to be as accessible as possible, primarily to a Sudanese audience, using mobile phones.
The project was developed in collaboration with Kings College London and was funded by the British Council and the Cultural Protection Fund. The site can be accessed HERE or by scanning this QR code
Thuburbo Majus or Colonia Julia Aurelia Commoda, its Roman name, was originally a Punic town, later founded as a Roman veteran colony by Augustus in 27 BC. Military veterans were sent to Thuburbo, among other sites, by Augustus to allow them to start their post-army lives with land of their own. Its strategic location and access to trade routes made it an important establishment. Ruins of the town are in the middle of the countryside with no towns in close proximity.
Most of the town was built around 150–200 and restored in the 4th century after the Crisis of the Third Century. It received a Capitolium in 168. The town was a productive grower of grain, olives, and fruit.Under Hadrian it was made a municipium, helping cause a growth in wealth, and Commodus made it a colony.
The Virtual Experience Company are working with the British Council and the Institut Nationale du Patrimoine Tunisie t bring this extraordinary site to the attention of the world, using Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality. In the first phase of the project we scanned and photographed the site using drones. Over the coming months we will be adding new content so please come back and follow our progress
The Roman city of Thysdrus was built, like almost all Roman settlements in ancient Tunisia, on former Punic settlements. In a less arid climate than today’s, Thysdrus, which became part of the Roman province of Byzacena, prospered especially in the 2nd century, when it became an important center of olive oil manufacturing for export.
By the early 3rd century AD, when the amphitheater was built, Thysdrus rivaled Hadrumetum (modern Sousse) as the second city of Roman North Africa, after Carthage. However, following the abortive revolt that began there in 238 AD, and Gordian I’s suicide in his villa near Carthage, Roman troops loyal to the Emperor Maximinus Thrax destroyed the city. The town is shown on the 4th century Peutinger Map.
Today, the Virtual Experience Company is collaborating with the British Council and the Institut National du Patrimoine Tunisie to bring the Amphitheatre to the world, using Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality. This first phase of the project includes the use of drones to film and scan the Amphitheatre.
We will be bringing you updates on the project as it develops over the coming months but, in the meantime, we hope you’ll enjoy some of our photos and video. Please feel free to send feedback via our comments page
Ksar Saïd Palace is a former Tunisian beylic palace located in Bardo, on the outskirts of Tunis. The Virtual Experience Company and Cambridge University have developed this interactive model of the palace, which links to an educational programme about the Palace and Tunisian cultural heritage.
The project is funded by the British Council’s Cultural Protection Fund and is designed to enable young Tunisians to explore the myriad of influences that make up their unique culture.
As part of our ongoing development of new technologies we are now working on processes to create 3D models using drones. This is an extremely efficient way of capturing large amounts of data, which can then be used to develop full interactive models.
Below are some raw examples of heritage sites in the UK.
The Virtual Experience Company was commissioned by Parliament to develop a visualisation of Westminster Hall, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The project was designed as part of a wider exhibition and we showed how the Hall may have looked in 1099 when it was first built by William Rufus. This visualisation was overlaid with a model of the Hall from 1400, when the famous hammer-beam roof was installed.
We also produced a suite of videos to describe the history of various aspects of the Hall. This example describes the King’s Table
The Virtual Experience Company was commissioned by HE the Cultural Advisor to HM the Sultan of Oman to develop a visualisation of the Archaeological Castle at Salut.
The history of the castle goes back into the mists of time and legend. The site is being excavated by the University of Pisa, who have uncovered a treasure trove of artefacts and evidence of occupations from, in particular, the Bronze Age, the Early Iron Age and the Late Iron Age.
In 2000 the Virtual Experience Company partnered with the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust to develop the world’s first realtime 3D virtual experience, specifically designed to enable disabled people to exlplore an historic building which had, up to then, been inaccessible to them. The Disability Discrimination Act required the owners of public spaces to provide access to disabled people or, if this was not possible, to provide a valid alternative. The Birthplace Trust and the Virtual Experience Company seized this opportunity to create a ground-breaking initiative.
The interactive experience enables visitors to explore the upper floor of the house, opening chests, drawing the curtains around the bed and picking up objects that are of interest to them. they can wander the house freely, as if they were actually there, no longer having to follow a pre-ordained route, watch a video or look at objects that someone else had chosen for them.
As one visitor put it: “When I was coming to see this new facility I was afraid i’d see something that would make me wish I could go upstairs. In fact, I think this is even better!”
This interactive is still in use today, some 16 years since it was first installed
Following the success of the installation at Shakespeare’s Birthplace the Virtual Experience Company worked with the Birthplace Trust to raise funds from the Heritage Lottery Fund for a similar facility at Anne hathaway’s Cottage.