An immersive new exhibition at Seattle’s Museum of History & Industry is blending technology from the 17th and 21st centuries to transport visitors into a unique tour of a medieval French monastery.
“Mont-Saint-Michel: Digital Perspectives on the Model” opened last week at MOHAI and relies on Microsoft artificial intelligence, mixed-reality technology and the HoloLens 2 device to tell the story of historic island site off the coast of Normandy, France.
An intricate, 3D map of Mont-Saint-Michel, constructed by hand in the 1600s by Benedictine monks, complements the exhibition. It’s the first time the map, a 1/144-scale model, has been to North America.
“The Museum of History & Industry is honored to share this icon of world history, enhanced by leading-edge technology, to create a unique experience born of innovations both past and present,” Leonard Garfield, MOHAI’s executive director, said in a news release. “More than 300 years separate the remarkable relief map and today, but the persistent human drive toward invention and creativity bridges those years, reflecting the unbroken quest for greater understanding and appreciation of the world around us.”
Microsoft’s work on the Mont-Saint-Michel experience — detailed a year ago in this GeekWire story — is an example of the software giant’s AI for Cultural Heritage program, which uses AI to empower people and organizations dedicated to the preservation and enrichment of cultural heritage. Working with nonprofits, universities and governments, Microsoft uses AI to help preserve the languages we speak, the places we live and the artifacts we treasure, according to the company.
Microsoft President Brad Smith was at the opening at MOHAI and called the relief maps “technological marvels” of Louis XIV and Napoleon’s time.
“It’s exciting to see how we can blend old and new technology to unlock the hidden treasures of history, especially for younger generations,” Smith said. “This exhibit provides a unique model for preserving cultural heritage around the world, something Microsoft is committed to through our AI for Good program.”