Vabamu Museum of Occupations and Freedom

Museum educates and involves the people of Estonia and its visitors and encourage everyone to think about the recent past, to sense the fragility of freedom, and to stand for freedom and justice.

Client:

Kistler-Ritso Eesti SA

Location:

Tallinn, Estonia

Size:

1,100 m²

Year:

2018

Scope of work:

Exhibition and interactive exhibits design, concept, development, production and installation. Multimedia and audiovisual media concept, content development, design and production. Virtual reality game design and programming. Artefacts display and installation. Graphic design and printing. Project management.

Photography:

Anu Vahtra, Elisabet Teinburg, Saara Mägin, Sven Soome, Raul Mee and Patrik Tamm.

vabamu.ee

About

Vabamu is located in the heart of Tallinn, near the old town. When we took on the task of refreshening this important museum, the exhibition itself was struggling with fading interest from visitors and an outdated exhibition.

Concept

To turn an aging museum into a modern and attractive destination, we had to reimagine the whole concept and reconstruct a modern and interactive experience. In the heart of the new exhibition would be the common people with their everyday worries, whose lives got turned upside down.

This makes the whole experience much more relatable and encourages discussion and reflection for families, locals, and tourists who are fascinated by our history.

Atmosphere

Luckily, Vabamu allowed us to think big and we managed to really expand the exhibition space by making use of the basement. This also created a natural visitor path, which resembles the horrors and eventual relief of occupation survivors.

The journey starts from the basement in darkness and symbolically moves to upper floors where the rooms get lighter, to give the sense of freedom. We put a lot of effort into creating a minimal yet powerful atmosphere and searched for strong symbols to represent every environment and topic.

This led to some great exhibits like a refugee boat in the room of the Great Escape, that is surrounded by a stormy sea, which was created by projections and sound effects.

Another notable example is the Soviet occupation room, which features a large golden star shaped table and red curtains. All the rooms, with every item in them, tell a story and contribute to the whole atmosphere.

A smart audioguide for museums

We felt that while in a captivating experience that puts visitors into the middle of historical struggles, overwhelming them with information would only break their illusion. This is why we eliminated all printed texts and created an invisible companion - a smart audioguide for museums.

The e-Guide application was specially designed for our new permanent exhibition and guides the visitor through the whole exhibition. All the clips are activated automatically as the visitor moves along, creating an intuitive experience that feels very natural.

When close to an exhibit stand, the e-Guide will display relevant information in bite-size, making sure that it doesn’t become overwhelming and irrelevant.

Development of hands-on exhibits

The wagon room

Mass deportations ripped apart families and traumatised entire societies. For most, these horrible memories start with a train. The wagon room is also one of the more memorable ones in Vabamu.

The wall boards that are used were brought in from abandoned houses whose inhabitants were deported, creating a scarily accurate atmosphere. The room’s floor is motorised and moves and shakes like a train, while light and sound effects support this experience.

Summary

Vabamu was a huge project, including many historians and specialists. It’s importance in Estonian history and culture is hard to overstate. The historical effects that deportation has had, still causes active discussion, so the museum must also consider many interest groups.

To top everything off, we were also on a tight schedule to finish the museum for EV100, the 100th anniversary for Estonian independence in 2018. In the end we managed well and resulted in an award-winning project that we are proud of and that definitely has an important place in our hearts.

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