The Montanistika building, which also houses the department of Geology of University of Ljubljana, is a remarkable object that is entered in the register of cultural heritage. The interior of the building (walls, floors and other elements) is adorned with numerous stone elements that emphasize its monumentality, and also carry important information about the extraction and use of natural stone in the past. From a geological point of view, the corridors and lobby of the building represent a special geological museum that provide the place for the education and combines natural and cultural heritage.
For decoration of the building interior local architectural stones (mostly Slovenian, partly Croatian) was used. The rocks used cover representatives of all three basic rock types (sedimentary, igneous and metamorphic rocks) which offers the opportunity to use these rocks also for the dissemination of geological contents to wider public.
The main objective of the research was to present the natural heritage to a wider audience in a narrative way using pictured dialogues, augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR). In addition to the implementation aspect of planning and designing a digital representation of natural heritage, the research also included the study process of graphic students, whose task was to optimally solve the digital presentation of the natural heritage with new media.
In the research three approaches were implemented with the task to digitally and interactively present the representative rocks in Montanistika building. The workflow of the research included the following creative steps: definition of digital strategy for natural heritage presentation, definition of content types and functionalities of interactive media, planning of information architecture and designing of wireframes, content creation (character design, 3D acquisition of the rocks, text and graphics creation), graphic design (layout, composition of elements), interaction and navigation design, developing of AR and VR applications, testing and optimization.
In AR apps the rocks were interpreted and described through the stories using their main characters, such as fossils and minerals. By the stylized characters and based on the geological knowledge and facts the comics were drawn. Characters were included in animated, video and sound storytelling that augmented building’s walls, staircases and floors made of rocks. These approaches enabled the presentation of the main rock properties to the observer in a more attractive way. In VR app, 360 scenes and 360 video recordings of the rocks were included. Here, the detailed information about each rock is additionally presented in the info boxes and the navigation allows the participants to interactively move from one virtual room to another. Additionally, elements such as stickers, tabs, and overlays were added to make the materials even more interactive and of interest to a younger audience.
The results of the research present three approaches of digitalization of natural heritage that include different levels of presentative and/or interpretative principles. The results demonstrate that VR presentations and stylized animated interpretations of rocks are valuable communicative media for digital natural heritage that enable an immersive experience of geological content.