Digital Transformation

Repackaging history



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October 1, 2015 | 4 min read

The challenge

Over time, museums have grown into their role as heritage storehouses, collecting all kind of objects of historical and cultural value. We understand our history through their collections. However, when you step into a museum you can see but no longer use or touch these objects.

The SmartReplica package: one real, one augmented, side by side

They’re carefully kept in their original state and the rich information they represent is reduced to a short text on a plaque. The pieces are ‘frozen in time’.

Curators have become increasingly frustrated with this and, as a result of the proliferation of digital technology, people have become used to having all information readily available at all times. Museums meanwhile don’t want to clutter their spaces with excessive amounts of information. To solve this, the cultural sector has been actively looking for new digital solutions to include context, cross references and background stories to their collection.

The solution

Dutch designer Maaike Roozenburg and creative agency LikeFriends have teamed up to prototype a possible approach. SmartReplica represents a different form of historical storytelling, both physically and digitally.

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The physical element consists of creating useable replicas of the object.

For this, we partnered with Delft Technical University. Via 3D scans of the object an exact digital model is created - including any damage, irregularities, and wear and tear to the original. By 3D printing this model, we can create a mould and use traditional ceramics techniques to create porcelain versions. Now, the object is ready to pick up where it left off, hundreds of years ago, in serving its intended purpose. History, so to speak, is ‘unfrozen’.

Next, by blending augmented reality with this physical centrepiece, users can browse the object’s history by simply looking at it with their phone and dragging a timeline. The places it went, the society it was part of, the big historic changes it was witness to, the craftsmanship that went into it ­are all narrated in 3D animation. One layer deeper, all the historical paintings, maps and documents used to construct the story are included for exploration.

At this point, AR is mostly bound to having a robust visual reference, which we’ve addressed by having the SmartReplica packaging double as a marker. With the advance of object recognition technology future SmartReplicas will have less limitations, opening up a wider field of potential applications.


With SmartReplica, we’re repackaging history for people everywhere to unbox and explore. The Victoria and Albert Museum, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam Museum, RijksMuseum and Zeeuws Museum all contributed content and the prototype was first shown to the public at Boijmans van Beuningen – an active partner in the project – at the beginning of September. We are currently looking for cultural, private or institutional investors to take the project from prototype into production.

The app is still in private beta. Get in touch or check for more info.


Tel: +31 20 758 35 80



Twitter: @likefriendsnl

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