If you’d rather hit the snooze button than visit a museum displaying 3, 000 years of Jerusalem history, the Tower of David Museum has eye-opening news for you.

This medieval citadel at the entrance to the Old City aims to knock your socks off with augmented reality, virtual reality, 3D animation, gaming, wearable technology and other high-tech wonders that have nothing in common with dusty artifacts under glass.

“People think history is boring, but here it comes alive with humor and information that is relevant today, ” says Eilat Lieber, director of the Tower of David (TOD). “We want to surprise people and put them inside the story of Jerusalem, and we want other museums to come here and learn from our experience.”

To accomplish both goals, TOD will host the “Hacking the Walls” hackathon on April 7-8 (the first-ever museum-sponsored hackathon in Israel) followed by a national conference, “Museums in the Digital Age: Enhancing the Visitor Experience, ” April 11.

“There’s no reason museums should lag behind innovation. We need to be the first to embrace technology to enhance the experience, ” says TOD director of new media Eynat Sharon, also the national digital media consultant for the Israel Council of Museums.

Actually, the Tower of David has been on the cutting edge since it opened in 1989 to present the history of Jerusalem inside a historic Crusader fortress built around the ruins of Herod the Great’s first-century BCE palace.

 

Eilat-Lieber-TowerofDavid  Tower of David Museum Director Eilat Lieber. Photo by Yuval Yosef

“We represented a new museology, using technology and design and illustration to tell 3, 000 years of history, ” Lieber tells ISRAEL21c. “But when I came here three and a half years ago, I knew we must renew and think about the younger audience.”

The TODigital mobile website, unveiled in January 2015, won a medal at the International Council of Museums technology conference in Budapest last November for its 360-degree audio virtual tour of Jerusalem from the top of the tower as well as inside the museum, available on any smartphone.

TODigital also introduced six multilingual products for actual visitors: AugmentiGuide by Enviewz, a touch-activated audiovisual mobile tour (designed by veterans of the IDF mapping corps) of 100-plus Jerusalem landmarks visible from the top of the tower; “Swipe the Citadel, ” an AR iPad game teaching Jerusalem history with film, animation, puzzles and challenges; Quesity’s downloadable app that turns families with children ages 4-10 into detectives solving the mystery of who built the Tower of David; a 3D recreation of Herod’s palace and pools; enhanced QR-driven guided tours that enable visitors to view images and film from the archives on demand; and a QR-driven children’s museum treasure hunt.

 

Quesity-Visitors to the Tower of David Museum using the Quesity app. Photo by Naftali Halberstadt

The enthusiastic response to these enhancements, says Lieber, encouraged them to kick it up to the next level with the hackathon.