Bringing history to life at the Ajman Museum
Nestled in the heart of Ajman, United Arab Emirates, stands the historic Ajman Fortress – former home of the ruling Ajman family, the Al Nuaimi’s since the 1800s. This double-storey fortification has remained central to the history of the Emirate of Ajman , standing tall through the years of Ajman’s independence, resisting bombardment from British ships in 1819 and staying in place up to the present day where the famous fortress remains as a museum and monument to Ajman’s illustrious history.
Bringing the story of an entire emirate to life is no small feat. With walls built from coral, rock and mudbrick, this fortress has stood the test of time and the museum required a complete overhaul of its spaces to tell the vibrant and varied history of the region through immersive AV exhibits. AVI-SPL was contracted by MTE Studios to deliver a self-reliant technological overhaul.
Narzulla Bazarov, project specialist, AVI-SPL, explains: “We crafted a user experience that epitomises simplicity. Every aspect of our technology is pre-programmed, ensuring effortless and seamless usability. With no need for onsite technicians, our system operates autonomously, optimizing operations professionally and with ease.”
The museum is centred around a large, open courtyard, surrounded by many buildings and the iconic Bajreel wind tower, believed to be the oldest structure of its kind in the UAE. Each building is home to unique exhibits filled with historical artefacts and clever AV installations to enhance the antiquities on show.
Stepping through the museum gates, visitors will find themselves in the courtyard where a QR code is available to access the museum’s smart guide system. The Ajman Museum required a system that required little input from staff, and this is true with the museum guide system. By scanning the QR code, visitors can download the Ajman Museum app which provides an introduction to the museum, an explanation of the exhibits and an intelligent guided tour and site map.
Each area of the museum, inside and out, is supported by Quuppa Q17 indoor and Q35 outdoor locators that work with the museum app. When the app is active, the Quuppas automatically trigger audio cues in Arabic or English on the exhibits and areas of interest in the museum. The tracking is extremely precise: Stepping less than a metre from one exhibit to another will trigger the next sequence, enabling visitors to explore the entire museum with accurate and responsive information no matter where they go in the museum, without latency.
Bazarov says: “Each exhibit has its own audio. The locaters keep the information precise for the individual areas of the museum. Each exhibit has its own audio in Arabic and English; ensuring precision. Notably, the locators detect visitors even if they are as close as 50cm away from an exhibit.
With the app downloaded and ready to start their visit, museum-goers are free to explore the museum without worrying about pressing buttons or scanning QR codes to interact with the museum, eliminating long queues to trigger audio and allowing the free flow of visitors throughout the site.
Starting the journey in the introduction space, visitors find themselves met with a projection display nestled within an artificial sand dune. This setup is powered by Christie Captiva projectors hidden discreetly within the sand dune set to create a seamless projection environment
This space also hosts five displays with a PQ Labs overlay where users can interact with the history of the region in English or Arabic. Genelec 4430AM speakers are positioned overhead to provide audio for the projection mapping display, supported on overhead wooden beams to preserve the original interior of the building as much as possible.
All audio in the museum is based on Dante, using a Q-SYS system. This allows for mixing over Q-SYS, with the option to route audio anywhere throughout the museum. Every exhibit in the museum features its own Crestron touchpanel, running a custom application created by AVI-SPL which seamlessly manages content playback, controlling start and stop functions, as well as volume adjustments from a variety of pre-set options.
Sight and scents
Moving through the museum, visitors find themselves immersed in a traditional Emirati marketplace, featuring a long corridor and individual ‘shops’ built into the set.
Stepping into the building, visitors are met with the sweet aroma of traditional sweets, Arabic coffee and spices in individual shops by installing an Aroma Ecoscent SJ02 scent deployment unit. Combined with the realistic set dressing, this scent machine brings a level of immersion to the experience by bringing the exhibits to life.
Each exhibit focuses on different professions and trades within a traditional market, using Christie projectors and BrightSign video playback. Other shops make use of Samsung 75-in screens for virtual story tellers. Bazarov explains: “Each of these shops features a dedicated storyteller. To enhance the immersive experience, we utilized a Samsung 75-inch display, creating a lifelike sensation of a person engaging directly with you. Additionally, speakers are available to ensure audio accessibility, providing an extra layer of flexibility for those without phones.”
For audio, this space uses Soundtube 5.25-in loudspeakers installed overhead, also running off the Q-Sys system, distributing audio over Dante. Quuppa locaters in this space are located in various areas, providing detailed English or Arabic information at each individual shop as app-users pass by.
AVI-SPL skilfully installed a smoke machine in conjunction with a Christie projector within the plaster burning shop, crafting an immersive diorama that captivates passing visitors. The equipment is discreetly concealed, with speakers suspended from the ceiling and projectors seamlessly blended into the set design.
Take your medicine
The traditional medicine area is split into several exhibits, starting with the men’s medicine room – featuring BrightSign video playback, a Christie projector and Samsung screens to add a dynamic element to what would otherwise be a simple diorama filled with mannequins.
To bring this space to life, AVI-SPL integrated a lighting control system to periodically light up exhibits in sync with the on-screen content. Bazarov says: “The area illuminates, signaling the beginning of the story, with individual sections strategically lit to elucidate the process. Seamlessly integrated with the lighting system, it synchronises with the content, achieving precise show control. The system is expertly managed using Crestron and BrightSign, providing robust control over the entire experience.”
Moving into the women’s traditional medicine room, a similar projector and audio set up is used alongside an interactive, iiyama multi-touch display, allowing visitors to play games and explore different aspects of the human body through interaction with the display.
Another iiyama interactive display is featured in the Ajman traditional costume space which allows visitors to experience different forms of traditional dress for men, women and children. This display is combined with a Logitech camera which projects virtual clothes on to visitors.
To the depths
The museum tells the story of Ajman’s famous pearl divers, with a mood-setting, AVpowered extravaganza that explains the importance and process of traditional pearl diving in the region.
This space is home to two Samsung 75-in screens displaying introductory content and Christie projectors using autofocusing technology to blend the projection into the set. This area leads into a much cooler, darker environment reflecting the mystery and colder depths of the ocean floor.
Going down into the deep, Christie projectors are used with ultra-short throw lenses to create a 6995 x 1950 underwater environment in the dark, using 46-in monitors with Pixilab touch film overlays attached to the glass which allows visitors to explore the history of pearl diving through interactive content. Once again, Soundtube speakers and Quuppa locaters are discreetly hidden, placing the kit beneath the screens for an immersive setup with no obtrusive equipment.
Embrace the past
Another stand out location is the archaeology room, housing ancient artifacts from the BCE period such as ancient pottery.
Finding a way to display these items dynamically was key to AVI-SPL, finding an intelligent solution in the form of a Pro Display 55-in transparent display.
Interactive content is used to illuminate the pottery behind the glass, superimposing the pottery’s artwork in its full glory over the top of the faded and aged original. With the content from the transparent display, the original detail is brought back to life as it would have looked over a thousand years ago.
This clever solution works as an ingenious alternative to restoring original exhibits or creating 1:1 replicas, instead relying on LCD to breathe new life into these millennia old exhibits without the risk of damage to these irreplaceable artefacts.
Room by room
Numerous smaller spaces are present throughout the museum’s upper floor, including a weapon room, Sheikh Rashid’s living quarters and a photography room which feature a combination of Soundtube speakers and Christie projectors.
Reflecting on the project, AVI-SPL was able to deliver an imaginative AV system that takes the traditional museum experience to a new level. Using a standardised roster of equipment, the integrator was able to provide an engaging, hands-free experience that requires little maintenance or technical prowess to use.
Bazarov closes: “As an integrator, our primary focus was to understand and deliver exactly what the client envisioned. We take great pride in our ability to enhance the museum experience while maintaining the essence of each cultural exhibit. It is truly rewarding to showcase the remarkable journey of Ajman Emiratis, spanning from their humble beginnings to the present day, leaving a profound impact on every visitor.”