Moving Stories: 3D Audio Walk on tonwelt Audioguides for the FLUGT Refugee Museum of Denmark in Oksbøl
“What we’re aiming to do here at the FLUGT Refugee Museum of Denmark is to turn numbers into people. We want to help visitors understand the issues, the stories and above all the feelings of people who’ve been forced to flee their homes. Both in the past and today.” That’s how the Director of FLUGT, Claus Kjeld Jensen, describes the concept and goals of his new museum in Oksbøl. This international project to present refugees’ own narratives has already attracted a great deal of attention across the globe – not least because the topic of refugees is more relevant than ever now in the face of so many worldwide crises and conflicts.
The site of the new FLUGT museum has a long connection with refugees. Denmark was occupied by Nazi Germany during the Second World War, and as the end of that war approached, more than 250,000 German civilians fled to Denmark to escape the growing destruction in their own country. In 1945, Oksbøl became the location of Denmark’s largest refugee camp, which housed up to 35,000 refugees at its peak.
But sadly, such mass movements of refugees are no longer consigned to the history books. In fact, according to the United Nations, more than 100 million people around the world are currently ‘on the run’. The causes, regions and routes of the world’s various refugee crises can of course be examined through figures and statistics. However, these can never hope to reflect the experiences, fates, dreams and traumas of the people who actually make such journeys. Escaping to safety can take weeks, months or even years – and many refugees die before they ever reach safe ground. The FLUGT Refugee Museum of Denmark has been created in order to humanise the statistics by retelling the real stories of historical and contemporary refugees who managed to survive.
The original camp hospital at Oksbøl once housed around 40 small rooms and operating theatres for its refugees. Architects from the Bjarke Ingels Group, based in Copenhagen and New York, have taken this camp hospital and turned it into a new museum consisting of eight large exhibition rooms in which the refugees’ stories can be told. The two historical parts of the hospital have been linked by a spectacular new construction, designed by the same company.
Refugee Stories: employing the audio tour as a central communication tool
One of the main challenges facing the FLUGT museum was how to bring its different refugee stories to life in a truly authentic and effective way. A solution for this was found by the design team of Tinker Imagineers, who created an innovative and immersive experience which makes use of a whole range of sounds, images and interactive elements. Thanks to their design, visitors not only become immersed within the general theme of the exhibition, but also within the individual refugee narratives themselves. The central tools for conveying these immersive stories are the audio tour and audioguide devices from tonwelt. These function together as an unobtrusive ‘companion’ for the visitor throughout the entire exhibition. The audioguide devices even have a special, scaled back interface for this exhibition to ensure that nothing can distract from the – primarily acoustic – narratives. The audio tour’s content is fed to the visitor via automatic and semi-automatic triggering. Any additional audio tracks from the museum’s many media stations are triggered through the same device and are automatically synchronised to the visitor’s chosen language. Just like in the Documentation Centre for Displacement, Expulsion, Reconciliation in Berlin, the audio tour for the FLUGT museum has been seamlessly integrated into its building’s existing AV architecture.
Inside and Outside: continued development of the tonwelt framework now enables automatic triggering with multitrack audio effects for tours throughout the museum’s grounds
Alongside the very high precision triggering system used within the FLUGT museum building, tonwelt have also installed an automatic triggering system in the museum’s outdoor area to facilitate a 45-minute audio tour through the camp’s adjoining woods. This is basically the same outdoor triggering system from tonwelt that has been used for such locations as the Giant’s Causeway UNESCO World-Heritage Site in Ireland. However, for the FLUGT Refugee Museum of Denmark, a brand new feature called ‘Multitrack Audio’ has been added to the external audio tour to expand the already extensive tonwelt framework. This new feature enables the seamless mixing of different audio tracks in the background of the main narrative to create an immersive ‘3D’ sound experience that changes as the visitor moves. The FLUGT museum’s innovative outdoor tour eventually leads to the ruins of a former theatre where performances were once put on for the camp residents. By employing the new ‘Multitrack Audio’ feature, the sound masters at Big Orange have managed to create an elaborate, binaural 3D audio production that literally brings the theatre back to life before the visitors’ ears!
Place & Date
Oksbøl (DK), 2022
Multimedia guide, system planning and integration, Videosynch, indoor and outdoor triggering