From research software to museum exhibition

The Via Appia Antica (photo: Maurice de Kleijn, 2021). 

Back in 2016, the Netherlands eScience Center recreated the Roman past in a 3D rendering of the famous Via Appia. The Via Appia was one of the earliest and strategically most important roads of the Roman world, dating from the fourth century BCE connecting Rome to Brindisi, in southeast Italy.  

The innovation of the 3D visualization tool from this project has since been used by many researchers from the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam to Radboud University Nijmegen. The 3D mapping tool was recently used for a cutting-edge museum exhibition called REVISITED Via Appia. Together with artist Krien Clevis, Research Software Engineers (RSEs) Maurice de Kleijn and Jesús García González worked on ‘REVISITED Via Appia’ to update the tool, adding new functionalities and enabling 3D environments with efficient point cloud data specifically for the exhibition. The tools generated an artistic perspective that helped to establish a link between past and present with media like photos and videos.  

“REVISITED Via Appia created an unprecedented gateway for archaeologists and researchers to delve into cultural heritage, blending cutting-edge 3D visual storylines with advanced point cloud data, all accessible directly from a web browser”, says Jesus.   

The exhibition was presented in 2022 at the Valkhof Museum in Nijmegen, with a gamified online version accessible to everyone. REVISITED Via Appia connects the results of years of academic and artistic research and allows visitors to feel as if they are time-traveling in the footsteps of the millions of people who have traversed this road since Roman times.  

This recently published paper in the Journal of Digital Applications in Archeology and Cultural Heritage goes into more detail regarding the innovative exploration of digital twin technologies and their integration with artistic research within the interactive museum exhibition.  

What’s next for REVISITED Via Appia? 

The researchers would like to see this exhibition grow and expand to many countries around the world. “We want to travel with this exhibition to Rome,” explained Maurice. “We envision starting a traveling exhibition from Nijmegen and traveling along the border of the Roman Empire and bringing it there.”  

They would also be interested in integrating this with other digital twin initiatives alongside Via Appia or other archeological parts.  

Overall, the progression of this project has been very exciting for the creators of this software. “When we first had the idea in 2012 to create a 3D environment of this landscape, we would have never thought it would lead to this. What an adventure!” says Maurice.  

Want to learn more about the interactive time-traveling online and museum experience? Read the recently published article in the Digital Application in Archeology and Cultural Heritage Journal.  

Who are we?   

The eScience Center is a research organization dedicated to applying research software to answer research questions in any scientific domain through project collaborations. It has the largest concentration of dedicated, high-level research software expertise in the Netherlands. The eScience Center also has a Fellowship Programme and makes all of its software and training materials openly available online. For more information about what we offer, visit esciencecenter.nl.