The Hypogeum, virtualised – Heritage Malta launches an innovative Virtual Reality experience

Heritage Malta, Malta’s national agency for cultural heritage, has just launched an interactive virtual reality experience of the Hypogeum as part of an engaging exhibition, once again raising the bar when it comes to interaction with historic sites.

The future is behind us: Navigating history in Virtual Reality is the fruit of a successful three year-long collaboration with Saint Martin’s Institute of Higher Education. Using the latest in 3D and VR technology, experts from the Institute have managed to recreate an exact replica of the entire site in meticulous detail, giving visitors a realistic and immersive experience of the Hypogeum – without actually stepping foot in it. In a ground-breaking first, the VR experience also portrays the site as it was originally constructed thousands of years ago, that is, with its Upper Level above ground.

With entry to the Hypogeum being restricted to a limited number of visitors per day for conservation purposes, and often fully booked months in advance, Noel Zammit, Heritage Malta’s CEO, explained how this site was the perfect choice to test this experience.

“Technology is the way forward, especially when it comes to achieving our conservation and accessibility goals,” emphasised Zammit. “This exhibition will allow thousands to visit the Hypogeum, without causing any damage or erosion to this delicate site.”

“Being an erratic archaeological site, recreating the Hypogeum was a considerable, but satisfying, challenge,” commented Charles Theuma, the Institute’s Principal. “Our experts had to create inhouse software tools to make the VR experience as immersive as possible, and include special effects in sound and lighting.”

“The Hypogeum is celebrating its 40th year as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There is no better way to celebrate this event than to transform it into one of the very few UNESCO sites to make use of VR as an additional platform of study and accessibility,” concluded Minister José Herrera. “I am incredibly proud that Heritage Malta is once again making waves in this sector.”

The future is behind us: Navigating history in Virtual Reality runs until the 12th of April at the National Museum of Archaeology in Valletta. Entry is free of charge.