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keynote best in heritage conference dubrovnik


Tinker's storyteller and concept-developer Joost van der Spek went all the way to Dubrovnik to be the first speaker at this year's Best in Heritage Conference. A keynote speech about imagineering heritage.

At first Joost rised the question: 'Best in Heritage. What is it then that makes heritage special?' For professionals this not a question. But for our visitors it is. Just having a good time is not enough. It definitely can be a great time, but that's not heritage's unique selling point. At Tinker we believe that the main purpose of heritage is to make visitors feel part of something bigger, by connecting them to the collective imagination. 

And that’s where we come into the story. We call ourselves ‘imagineers’: engineers of the imagination. We consider it our job to find the switch to turn on the visitors’ imagination. That can be done in many ways: by creating storylines, visitors journeys, exhibits, games, animation, scenography. At this talk we focus on the technical aspects, especially how technique can be used in an imaginative way. 

A very powerful way to capture the imagination is using the sense of place. Create a world, a setting that is immersive and that reinforces the story. We usually try to stay away from filling the place up with screens and games. At DOMunder you won't find anything to disturb the feeling of being in the cradle of Utrecht history. In the dark we let visitors explore the space with a magic torch looking for archaeologic remains. Every time they shine their light on one, it lights up and a story starts on their earphones. It is the archaeologist telling them what they are looking at.

And that’s exactly what we wanted them to do: looking at the real stuff. As you will understand there is a lot of technique involved. So, it’s thanks to technology they have experienced the archaeological site, but it’s not the technology they have experienced. When you integrate technology with the real thing, can you capture the visitors’ imagination in a way that can never be reproduced somewhere else.

The best solutions have a timeless quality, they don't age quickly. For Nestlé we developed a timed-experience about their foundation in the 19th century. In most zones, we worked with early cinema techniques: the magic lantern, shadowplay, praxinoscope, ombre chinoise and alike. Everything is being controlled by a state of the art Coollux system, but you experience a magic world with moving shadows and optical illusions. We are totally convinced that this will still be as magical in ten-years-time as it is now. 

At last something about the big multimedia show we created for the recently opened museum Tirpitz on Danish westcoast that takes over the local history gallery every half an hour. It’s a 6-minute-journey through a 100.000 years of history, a ride almost, that introduces the region’s past. In these cases, you need to know a lot to tell very little. It took long talks with the museum to convince them that the show would be better if we would not be as complete historically. 

In other words: leave parts out. Naturally the curators were reluctant, but in the end, they trusted us. The result is a show that introduces local history in an immersive way. It’s what we call ‘truth well told’. Things are definitely things missing, but we don’t try to be complete. We try to touch people and that is what is does. And that’s why after the show they are triggered to go and find out all there is to know. 

The same counts for the choice for using audio-guides to communicate most information. We have tried being very strict in the number of stories we tell. However the amazing thing is that the audioguide statistics show that 39% of the visitors, listen to more than 50 stories! We are sure that is because we’ve consciously tried to keep the stories short and crisp, in between 40 seconds and 1 minute in order not to over feed the visitor and keep them hungry

We work in one of the most exciting and interesting fields there is: heritage. The temples where we celebrate our collective imagination. It’s our privilege and duty to capture this imagination, to fascinate people with the collective efforts of our ancestors and to make them feel part of something bigger.

We believe that truth well told is much more exciting than an Xbox game and has got a lot more meaning than a visit to IKEA. And technology can play a vital role in that. Not as a purpose but as means to an end. To share your heritage with the world.