Erin Gregory

Assistant Curator – Canada Aviation and Space Museum

Session#3, Tuesday 27th September, 11:00

Game On: Bringing Artifacts and History to Life in Mobile Apps 
The role of the artifact in the 21st century museum can vary but often are still used only for static display. The digital age has afforded museum professionals a unique opportunity to bring their collections to life with little to no risk to the artifacts and their preservation. While not the “real thing”, digital technologies are opening up new ways of utilizing and showcasing artifacts in transport collections. This is particularly important because so often these collections are large, in storage, inoperable, or too expensive to operate. And yet, their magic lies in their movement and utility. Digital technologies can help alleviate some of the pressure to do something new with a static display of transport objects and allow even the rarest of artifacts the chance to get mobile and be experienced by users all over the world, not just within the four walls of a museum.
These ideas and more were put to the test throughout the Canada Aviation and Space Museum’s (CASM) development of a digital historical simulation game for mobile devices called Ace Academy: Black Flight. This endeavour brings together the best elements of the digitization, 3D renderings of collections, storytelling, and gamification, bringing the user back in time to experience the deadly skies of Europe in 1917 and 1918. The aircraft players use throughout the game are 3D renderings of those in the museum’s collection and also featured are photographs, archival materials, and small objects from several other collections. The results have been overwhelmingly positive, the app has been downloaded in the 10s of thousands all over the world. Ace Academy: Black Flight takes digital products to a new level, mimicking the behaviour of planes during the First World War and bringing them out of the museum.
After 100 years, these airplanes are flying again over the skies of the Western Front.