Chapter News, News

Digital tech gives you the keys to the Roman Empire

Would you like to discover secret treasures of the Roman Empire, guided by an old merchant and his nephew? New technologies make this incredible journey possible. An exciting new exhibition is being launched today in four different cities, representing key areas of the Roman Empire: Rome (Italy), Amsterdam (The Netherlands), Sarajevo (Bosnia and Herzegovina) and Alexandria (Egypt). ‘Keys to Rome’ (#K2R) is organised by an EU-funded network of archaeologists, art historians, architects, computer scientists and communication experts.

“All the technologies developed for this exhibition are the result of a four-year cooperation. ‘Keys to Rome’ showcases our efforts”, says Sofia Pescarin, a researcher at the Italian National Research Council (CNR) and coordinator of V-MUST.NET (@V_MUST), the Virtual Museum Transnational Network. “Organising the exhibition in four cities at the same time has been a big challenge. It has never been done before. 2014 is the right moment: it marks 2 000 years since the death of Augustus, founder of the Roman Empire”.

The four museums involved are the Imperial Fora Museum (Rome), the City Hall of Sarajevo, the Allard Pierson Museum (Amsterdam) and the Bibliotheca Alexandrina (Alexandria). Their Roman collections are discovered through a digital itinerary using computer graphics movies, natural interaction installations, multimedia and mobile apps.

New digital tools to unlock stories of the past

The journey is guided by two storytellers, Gaius and Marcus, an old merchant and his nephew, in the century following the end of the Roman Empire (6th century AD). Visitors discover the secrets of their family through objects owned by their ancestors, using the ‘Keys to Rome’ to unlock stories hidden in the items. “They have to find those objects in the museum using a mobile application called Matrix, which connects the objects in the four museums in a sort of treasure hunt”, explains Sofia.

In Rome, a Walking Map gives visitors the feeling of walking in the city now and 2,000 years ago. Augmented reality technologies and holograms are at the core of the journey.

European Commission Vice President @NeelieKroesEU, responsible for the Digital Agenda, says: “New technologies are not only about preserving and sharing our heritage, they are opening up our culture for all. These four museums have understood it and are making the most of digital innovation”.

Read more about the V-MUST.NET project (also in French, German, Italian, Polish and Spanish).

Pictures and footage of the launch events will soon be available at:


€4.45 million of EU funding is invested in V-MUST.NET, under the EU seventh framework programme for research and technological development #FP7 (2007-2013). The new EU research and innovation programme Horizon 2020 #H2020 promises even more technological innovations with €80 billion of funding available over the next 7 years (2014-2020).