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INNOVATION 25


“THE CELLS TELL PROMINENT PRISONER STORIES AND SA’S HISTORY, AND ALSO REVEAL HOW FAMILIES OF THE IMPRISONED MUST HAVE FELT.”


The visitor upgrade at the Old Fort will showcase


an important aspect of SA’s history and journey to democracy through the use of immersive storytelling to engage and educate wider audiences. The upgrade will give visitors a self-guided experience, game-like activities, the ability to engage physically with the history of the site through audio-visual storytelling and the clever use of cutting-edge technology.


THE OLD FORT: IN A NUTSHELL Previously known as the Johannesburg Jail, the Old


Fort is a National Heritage Site. The Fort housed white male political and common-law prisoners, as well as political inmates. One of them was South African Communist Party leader Joe Slovo and another was former President Nelson Mandela, the Fort’s only black prisoner, who was interned here twice.


EXPERIENCE-DRIVEN EXHIBITS Heading up the visitor experience upgrade is


Formula D, an award-winning exhibit design firm whose forte is crafting meaningful interactive experiences that push the boundaries in terms of technology and creativity. “Many museums in SA struggle to get feet through


the door because their traditional way of presenting content no longer works for their audiences,” says Michael Wolf, CEO of Formula D. “We use technology and good storytelling, ask questions and encourage the audience to form their own opinions. At the Old Fort, our intention is to unlock the site’s history in ways that encourage critical thinking for visitors of various age groups and educational backgrounds.” The upgrade is focused on specific areas at the


Old Fort, each with its own theme, focus story and side story. For example, the cells tell prominent prisoner stories and SA’s history, and also reveal how families of the imprisoned must have felt. Each cell explores a different prisoner’s reality using a variety of mediums, including timeline format, shadow theatre, first-person audio accounts and holographic video, allowing for a rich multimedia experience that’s hugely appealing to the youth.


Up on the Old Fort’s ramparts, which offer


stunning views of the city, two full-scale replica cannons have been added to the north-east and south-west bastions. One of them will simulate the firing of the daily 1pm gun, as reported in history. In terms of game-like activities, Formula D created


the Explorer Game, which enables children to trace a pencil over cut-outs of relevant objects placed around the Old Fort. It’s a fun way of navigating the space, while also serving as a memento to take home. Another outdoor activity centres on the interactive


“heliograph” signalling stations, which allow children to learn about and send their own messages via Morse Code. “It’s a fun and entertaining way to teach children the methods of communication used by soldiers within the Old Fort’s history,” says the product design team at Formula D. The new exhibition space will be open


to the public at the end of October. Visit: www.constitutionhill.org.za


“The project started with research and


interpretation, which then developed into a storyline and finding creative methods to tell the story to visitors,” says Johan du Toit, Formula D’s Senior Product Designer. “We developed ‘ghost’ characters to lead visitors through the site and history. The exhibits and interventions were all developed around these characters. This then became the template on which all exhibits and media were designed and produced.” According to the Formula D team, designing the Pepper’s Ghost exhibit was probably the most challenging, as it involved a lot of research and prototyping to achieve the desired result. “Pepper’s Ghost recreates a 1:1 scale visual experience of inmate Joe Slovo reading from a letter he wrote to his wife, Ruth First, and walking around his cell. The cell’s also fitted with an audio device, allowing the user to listen to Joe talking to himself about daily life in the Old Fort. With this audio-visual experience, a user will grasp what a typical day was like for Joe Slovo inside the prison.”


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