Client: Museum für Naturkunde Berlin

Immersive storytelling at the Berlin Natural History Museum

a smartphone with 3D birds coming out of it
We want to awaken the spirit of discovery among visitors. The app acts like a digital window into the past and behind the scenes of various areas of the museum.

Tina Schneider, media scientist at Mediasphere for Nature

two visitors walk through the bird hall

The historic Vogelsaal (Bird Hall) of the Museum für Naturkunde Berlin is host to one of the most important ornithological collections in the world, and the largest of its kind in Germany. Usually only accessible to researchers and scientists, the Vogelsaal exceptionally opens its doors as part of 15 exclusive guided tours designed by NEEEU in collaboration with the Mediasphere for Nature.

Bringing the birds back to life

If by some strange magic, the cohort of approximately 11,000 bird specimens of the hall came back to life, it would be a mind boggling concert of chirping, whistling and cawing. Short of actual wizardry though, the immersive storytelling experience we created is probably the closest thing you can get to such a feat of bird resurrection.

a visitor looks at a colibri in augmented reality

Today’s museum visitor expects to learn and have fun at the same time. What role can emerging technologies play in providing this experience? NEEEU is always looking for new forms of storytelling, with a focus on surprise, playfulness & education.

With the help of a specially developed app dubbed “Vogelfinder” (Bird Finder), you can discover the hall on your own. You are handed a mobile device and a pair of headphones, and you walk through the many corridors of the hall, under the watchful eyes of the many bird specimens peering through the glass of their antique wooden showcases.

Follow the bird songs that guide you to each of the twelve stations where you will discover the story of each particular bird. Where does the hummingbird live? Which of those birds is extinct? Who were the historical collectors who brought these specimens back to Germany?

Activating the scientific archive

Many of the birds have been in the collection for well over 100 years, some are older than the museum building itself. They have been the subjects of intense scientific scrutiny for a very long time. Therefore, one of the main challenges of this project was to boil down a hundred years of scientific research into 30 to 45 minutes of engaging storytelling.

a strand of yellow thread traces the visitor journey over a map of the hall

Through the whole duration of the project, we worked closely with scientists and experts at the museum in a series of workshops. We collected anecdotes, identified the most promising specimens, and matched them with existing sound recordings from the museum's own animal sounds archive.

A NEEEU designer writes ideas on a post-it note. Behind her are cards showing the different birds in the experience.

Then, to complete the illusion of live birds flying and singing through the hall, we collaborated with award winning sound designer David Kamp of Studio Kamp, who mixed the sounds into an interactive binaural soundscape.

three screens of the bird finder app

"The interactive guided tours are part of a forward-looking pilot project that investigates new methods of imparting knowledge," says media scientist Tina Schneider. "We want to awaken the spirit of discovery among visitors. The app acts like a digital window into the past and behind the scenes of various areas of the museum."

The resulting sound-based AR experience weaves digital content and physical space to create a unique hybrid experience that doesn’t distract from the exhibits but supplements them with relevant information, scientific facts, and engaging anecdotes. This is a prime example of how, through technology, artistry, and storytelling, we can turn digital curation into an experience that is both compelling and scientifically accurate.