The Papal recognition of the Hospitallers of St John of Jerusalem in 1113

At around 1048 the Fatimid Caliph Al-Mustansir Billah gave permission to some merchants from the Republic of Amalfi to build a hospital in Jerusalem. The community, which was led by Blessed Gerard, ran the hospital and became independent during the First Crusade in around 1099. This was the origin of the Knights Hospitaller.

This Bull, issued by Pope Paschal II on 15th January 1113, is considered to be the founding charter of the hospital. It transformed what was a community of pious men into an institution within the church. By virtue of this document, the Pope officially recognized the existence of the new organisation as an integral and operative part of the Roman Catholic Church.

Papal Bull 1113 – National Library of Malta.

In it, the Pope formally recognized the foundation of the hospital, which became a lay-religious order under the sole patronage of the church. The Bull gave the right to elect its Grand Masters without interference from external authorities.

The Bull includes a list of the Order’s hospitals and hospices in France and Italy, indicating that it was not limited to the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem and that it already had a European dimension.

This document, from the National Library of Malta, forms part of The Construction of Europe, one of the three transmedia exhibitions developed by the European Digital Treasures project.

Leonard Callus, Head Office National Archives of Malta

Transmedia Products

Interview with Paul Keneally, MTU

In this post we will be speaking with Paul Kenneally, from Munster Technological University (MTU), on the fantastic work he has been doing on the Digital Treasures project. In particular the interview will focus on the transmedia products he and the team have been working on developing. 

Interviewer: Hi Paul, thanks for taking the time to speak with us today on the transmedia products being developed for the digital treasures project. We know you are busy working on completing a lot of this work so we won’t keep you long.

Paul: No problem, thanks for asking me to do this. It is great to share the work we are doing.

Interviewer: Great, so first off for those not familiar with transmedia, what is it?

Paul: Yeah, so transmedia in general constitutes the mixture of using a bunch of different types of media so conventional video, graphic design, animation, some web design, and as well as some new contemporary technologies, like, augmented reality, and games. So taking that then just to create mixed disciplinary outputs that are, some again like I said are conventional in design and the way they are made, and then some are a little bit more cutting edge, for example the augmented reality.

Interviewer: Okay, so to follow that. What transmedia has been created for this project?

Paul: Yeah. So for this project, we created several transmedia products. Again, that cross disciplines, like Game Design, Augmented Reality, Video and Animation, and then as well, just combining all those, and mixing them together. So, by doing that, some of our most notable transmedia products include the use of augmented reality being embedded into old archival documents. So, that’s documents that are anywhere from decades to hundreds of years old, that have been enhanced with some sort of an animation. 

AR example

And then that’s been applied down to a third-party app that runs an AR event. So that’s how augmented reality works. Some other ones then include the use of touchscreen games. So things like matching pair quizzes, general knowledge quizzes and infinite runners is another one. Those are going to be used on touchscreens, like kiosks that will be a part of modular furniture that’s going to be at the exhibition. 

Touchscreen Kiosk

So, these screens support 10 Point touch, which is really important because it invites multiple people to interact and play it together at a time. So introducing things like competitive aspects, and as well to make sure that the players or the museum, visitors, achieve a state of flow, when they’re playing the games, so nothing obstructs them, their experience or their general enjoyment of the experience. 

Interviewer: Just on the state of flow Paul, what do you mean by this?

Paul: State of flow, is a channel that’s in between, boredom, and kind of like overbearing challenge. It’s a concept proposed by a Hungarian-American psychologist called Mihály Csíkszentmihályi and this refers to a level of optimum performance and concentration. For games, this also includes levels of fun and the desire to retry the games multiple times. Another example of this would entail really long amounts of time passing the player by without them even noticing.

Interviewer: Perfect, thank you. So how are people going to interact with these transmedia products and what will they do with them?

Paul: Yeah, so if people get a chance to go to the exhibitions, there are multiple ways, depending on what transmedia product they want to interact with. So for the touchscreen games, they just need to interact with the touchscreen kiosks and follow the instructions that are set on those screens. For augmented reality, visitors can scan each document’s respective AR trigger or AR tag to activate the AR event on the document so that will allow you then to view animated elements around the document. Other products that will be at the exhibition as well, will be things like touchscreen catalogues which again will use the same technology, they are operated the same as you operate your tablet device by using swiping gestures.

Interviewer: To put you on the spot, what was your favourite one to develop?

Paul: I actually had two favourite transmedia products for this project. The first one was the RPG (role-playing game) game. It’s been a once in a lifetime type of experience where I could make a game from start to finish, from being involved in things like the design and ideation of the script with the archivists who acted as subject matter experts to the technical execution of the game. So I’m very happy, and really lucky to have had an opportunity to do that. 

RPG Level 1

And then the second one, is actually the augmented reality itself. It’s really cool when you can take documents that are hundreds of years old, and embed this invisible extra layer of interactivity and experience this using either a tablet device or smartphone. So that’s really exciting stuff and I hope more of that gets done in the future.

Interviewer: Final question for you, if people only got the opportunity to play or interact with only one of these transmedia products. Which one of them would you definitely play yourself?

Paul: Oh, that’s a hard one. If you don’t have the opportunity to go to the exhibition, I highly recommend playing the RPG game. And given the current circumstances with COVID-19 and social distancing and all that, it’s very possible that this might be an occurrence. For anybody who is fortunate enough to go to these exhibitions, being safe and following all precautions of course, it will definitely be augmented reality. So instructions on how to install the app called Artivive will be at the exhibitions, as well as tablet devices will be there if people feel a little bit more comfortable with using devices supplied on-site.

Interviewer: Great, thanks for your time Paul and we all look forward to seeing the final product either online or in person at the exhibitions.

Interview by Niall Fahy, MTU

The EDT-Exhibition Welcome Video

Starting from the end of June 2021 in Barcelona the three transmedia exhibitions start all over Europe and will last till October 2022. The basic idea of the project team was to welcome visitors to the individual exhibitions by means of a short video clip and to present and summarise the exhibition concept as it were in a nutshell. This video will greet visitors during the exhibitions on TV screens mounted overhead and, as it were, convey a first impression.

On the one hand, the participating institutions are presented, which make the exhibited documents available; on the other hand, a selection of documents that is as diverse as possible symbolises each individual thematic focus of the exhibition (The Making of Europe – Exile, Migration Flows and Solidarity – European Inventions and Discoveries). Each participating institution is represented by three documents, with each document explained with a short title and dating. In addition, the welcome video also provides an overview of the timetable of the exhibitions in the different countries.

To meet the needs of local visitors, no less than seven language versions of the video have been produced, namely in English, Spanish, Portuguese, Norwegian, Maltese, Hungarian and German.

In addition to the above-mentioned area of application, it is also planned to use this video, accompanied by a background melody, as a general presentation medium for the EDT project, a kind of business card for the project.

Written by Dr. Karl HEINZ, MAS,
Science & Strategy
ICARUS – International Centre for Archival Research

The impact of COVID-19 on the Digital Treasures exhibitions

The archival treasures, documents and records kept by the archives around the world lie in their peaceful places in their cases, boxes or folders in those never-ending mysterious storage rooms. Our exhibitions mean that the history itself is brought to life. When an exhibition is set up, the archival records are being carefully digitised or taken out and are prepared by professional restorers to be displayed to the public. In presenting these records for cultural, educational purposes – some of them being many hundred years old – the exhibitions play a particularly important role.

Heritage of a Nation – Landmarks of Hungarian History exhibition opening in August 2020, Budapest, Hungary. Credits: Zsuzsanna Lantos, National Archives of Hungary

When we think about the recently erupted epidemic, it is hard to miss its impact on the cultural sector. Last year new exhibitions were planned and opened just to be closed right after opening and it has been a new experience for all of us to cope with the challenges that have been triggered by COVID-19. The pandemic has disrupted traditional working practices in the sector, making the digital transformation of cultural heritage institutions more important than ever. However, these challenges resulted in many positive changes that might have been delayed if the pressure of digitisation had not come in waves. The digital strategies have drastically changed and we had to keep focus on what is important.

The main aim of the exhibitions is to make the archival material available to the citizens of the world, families, students, travellers, art enthusiasts, pensioners and so on, to help them get closer to their roots, their history and cultural heritage. These records are the base of every nation’s history involved and should be made available for everyone who is curious enough to observe and understand them. Though our physical exhibitions remained closed, the digital world has opened new windows in exhibition planning. Some of the main challenges were preparing teams for working with digital technologies, a budget, preparing factors for choosing a direction for further activities and through it all, most importantly keeping good health in the focus. Virtual exhibitions have emerged, the digitisation of archival records has accelerated, archival educational material was prepared for the online classes. Social media became the main event space for openings, virtual book launch events and workshops. Our digital content has grown rapidly and as a result, our institutions became more transparent and accessible to the public.

In the framework of the European Digital Treasures project, three exhibitions are being prepared. The archival digitisation processes in the partner countries have worked effectively, but COVID-19 has caused some serious impacts on the exhibition’s physical openings in some countries. The crisis has directly implied the delay in the opening of the exhibitions; the first exhibition of the project is ‘The Construction of Europe’, it will finally open in late June, 2021 at the Archives of the Crown of Aragon, Spain and will be the first exhibition to start the series of exhibitions of the European Digital Treasures project.

All measures considered, the archives have adapted their facilities to guarantee the protection of both workers and citizens who access them. All institutes are currently working on a plan that will allow the safest way of engaging in exhibitions after reopening.

Author: Anna Palcsó, Public Education Officer, National Archives of Hungary