image description

A virtual journey through history

Russian Railways has developed the first digital platform of the Russian Railways Museum
image description

From day one, the Russian Railways Museum has been using modern technology to immerse visitors in the history of the development of the transportation industry. To this end, visitors are offered multimedia installations, VR-quests, «virtual platforms» and «coming to life» sculptures. A new product of the museum is a mobile application that shows unique exhibits in a virtual tour.

The Russian Railways Museum was opened on October 30, 2017, the day of the celebration of the 180th anniversary of domestic railways. The museum complex consists of two buildings and an open-air exhibition.

Photo: photobank PH Gudok
As «1520 International» was told by Dmitry Golovkin, Deputy Director of the Russian Railways Museum, as early as at the stage of designing the museum, its organizers included multimedia installations, interactive models, and augmented reality complexes in the exposition.

«The combination of multimedia and authentic rolling stock has produced a strong synergetic effect - the exhibits «started talking,» says Dmitry Golovkin.

According to him, digital solutions used in the main exposition have proven to be the most successful in interacting with visitors.

For example, plaster sculptures that «come to life», a steam locomotive in section, and a «wheel of time», which rotation enables visitors to see stories about different eras, are only available in the leading railway museums of the world.

«Take, for instance, the principles of locomotive operation - the vast majority of visitors do not understand them. In our museum the main processes that take place in a steam locomotive are shown in the installation «Steam Locomotive of the SCH Series», and all the component parts and technical parameters of a diesel locomotive can be seen through the «scanner» in front of a TEP70 locomotive. Visitors can even try to operate it: the «Diesel Locomotive Driver's Cabin» simulator is a popular service of the museum,» describes Dmitry Golovkin.

The «Water Supply» installation tells how the steam locomotives were equipped with water: an optical device - binoculars with augmented reality - is pointed at a real hydro column, boilers and a pump, and the water supply system starts «working».

Some cars can't be entered; for example, saloon car No. 3 is not yet accessible. A screen-cut «Vyacheslav Molotov's Working Trip» is used instead. The installation, like an X-ray scanner, shows through the car, enabling visitors to see not only the interior, but also the «real» passengers.

The installation goes online

Photo: photobank PH Gudok
Two virtual reality zones are open to visitors: a walk and a quest. They are held in a fully digitized interior of the only preserved imperial train, which is stored in Finland. The VR quest is organized in an Empire-style space inside the museum, while the VR walk is inside a Class IV carriage.

All multimedia is very popular with visitors. For this reason, in 2022, the museum made another step in this direction - it presented the application «Digital Platform of the Russian Railways Museum», developed by Russian Railways.

Dmitry Golovkin argues that there are no similar digital products in any museum in the world. «Our mobile app uses innovative computer vision technology and Bluetooth beacons installed throughout the museum,» he adds. - With this network, our guests get a unique service. They can navigate inside the museum and build routes to the right exhibits, listen to a tour with a virtual guide, take a quiz, and explore the museum's digitized archives.»

From anywhere in the world

The «Russian Railways Museum Digital Platform» is available for iOS and Android devices. The application can be used from anywhere in the world.

Two overview tours have been developed for virtual visits - one of the historical halls and the other of the main building. Thus, using the application visitors can «walk» in the museum in 360 degrees, accompanied by a guide, and study the exhibits.

There is an opportunity to view more than 50 exhibits separately: steam locomotives, diesel locomotives, electric locomotives, cars, diesel trains and special equipment.
For this purpose, the application has a separate section with photos, brief descriptions, historical references and technical characteristics of the rolling stock. Users can also project a virtual model on any flat surface, rotate, scale, and view it from all sides, and take AR-photos. The resulting photos can be published in social networks directly from the application or sent in messengers.
The knowledge gained during the virtual tours can be tested on the museum's digital platform by taking quizzes. 

Visitors to the virtual museum will also get some memorable photos - the app has a «Photo with Augmented Reality» section. There are 20 railway headdresses for visitors to choose from - samples from 1825 to 2016 - which can be «tried on» online.

The Russian Railways Museum plans to develop its own digital ecosystem in stages. It will include an application with ever-increasing functions, a website and social networks. A separate area will be the introduction of a game-based loyalty program for visitors.

«We will use the most effective tools in marketing and the leisure industry, but we will do it thoughtfully and carefully, with full respect for the high status of the museum as a cultural institution,» - concludes Dmitry Golovkin.

Anna Yakusheva

Read next content