The Virtual Leopold Fleischhacker Museum
Daniel Sacher, Germany, Wolfram Luther, Germany, Barbara Kaufhold, Germany, Michael Brocke, Germany, Margret Heitmann, Germany, Daniel Biella, Germany
The German-Jewish sculptor and artist Leopold Fleischhacker (1882-1946) created busts, medallions, insignias, monuments, memorial tablets (Brocke, 1988) and more than 250 tombstones located in cemeteries in the German Rhine-Ruhr area (Steinheim Institute, 2011). The Steinheim-Institut and Prof. Dr. Michael Brocke are the owners of the Fleischhacker estate, which includes more than 300 annotated photographs and personal letters, comprising work between 1908 and 1938. The majority of Fleischhacker’s artworks were destroyed or are scattered in private collections and are no longer accessible. Thus, the Steinheim-Institut decided to develop a virtual museum depicting the life and work of Leopold Fleischhacker. The web-based museum is a combination of indoor and outdoor areas to gather and share the pictorial material and 3D reconstructions of still extant tombstones in thematically oriented exhibitions. The exhibited material provides an insight into Fleischhacker’s private life and an overview of his artworks and artistic styles. The museum hosts approximately 200 pictorial exhibits; 3D assets and information tableaus; 29 reconstructed tombstones; and one greatly enlarged reconstruction of a signet, which serves as eye-catcher in the entrance hall of the virtual museum. Art history contexts, exhibition design, texts and room arrangements were elaborated by Dr. Barbara Kaufhold. The virtual exhibition will be thematically arranged throughout 14 exhibition rooms. The conceptual exhibition layout was drafted into ground plot sketches to indicate the spatial design and to define virtual object positions.
Our demonstration seeks to present the interdisciplinary development of the Virtual Leopold Fleischhacker Museum’s interior rooms: the digitization of Fleischhacker’s pictorial estate, metadata capturing and descriptive metadata enrichment and the automated process of transforming ground plot sketches into virtually walk able 3D exhibition rooms. Due to the large set of pictorial exhibits we utilize the advantages of metadata based modeling–automated generation of exhibition rooms and automatic distribution of exhibits for further manual postprocessing (Sacher et al., 2012)–as well as the curator software suite ViMEDEAS (Virtual Museum Exhibition Designer using an Enhanced ARCO Standard), which has already been described in (Biella and Luther, 2009), (Biella et al., 2010b), (Biella et al., 2010a) and (Biella et al., 2012). ViMEDEAS is designed for museum curators and content creators and for (3D) software developers, as well as for visitors, researchers and educators alike. ViMEDEAS includes authoring tools, frameworks, an XML-based metadata set to describe virtual museums and seeks to support the entire design process of virtual museums: planning, creation, archiving, dissemination and presentation. The metadata set ViMCOX (Virtual Museum and Cultural Object Exchange Format) (Wolf et al., 2012), which is included in ViMEDEAS, describes virtual museums containing classical, contemporary or born-digital art. ViMCOX was developed to support the hierarchical description of virtual museums and provides stylistic devices for sophisticated and vivid exhibition design, which cannot be achieved using classic museums standards. ViMCOX supports interactive exhibition content, assets, outdoor areas and spatial exhibition design including illumination concepts. The metadata set ViMCOX is based on international metadata standards and uses LIDO version 1.0 (Coburn et al., 2010) as an interchange and harvesting format for cultural objects.
Keywords: ViMEDEAS, ViMCOX, Replicave, Metadata, Virtual Museum, 3D Framework
The Jewish-German sculptor and artist Leopold Fleischhacker (1882–1946) created busts, medallions, insignias, sculptures, monuments, memorial tablets (Brocke, 1988) and more than 250 tombstones located in cemeteries in the German Rhine-Ruhr area (Steinheim-Institut, 2011). The Steinheim-Institut and Dr. Michael Brocke are the owners of the Fleischhacker estate, which includes more than 300 annotated photographs and personal letters, comprising work between 1908 and 1938. The majority of Fleischhacker’s artwork was destroyed or is scattered in private collections and is therefore no longer accessible.
To provide access to interested members of the public, the Steinheim-Institut decided to develop a virtual museum depicting Leopold Fleischhacker’s life and work. The web-based museum is a combination of indoor and outdoor areas in which the pictorial material and 3D reconstructions of still extant tombstones are gathered and shared in thematically oriented exhibitions. The material exhibited provides an insight into Fleischhacker’s private life and an overview of his artworks and artistic styles. The museum hosts approximately 200 pictorial exhibits; 3D assets like plants, pillars, glass vitrines, benches and information tableaux; 29 reconstructed tombstones; and one greatly enlarged reconstruction of a signet, which serves as eye-catcher in the entrance hall of the virtual museum. Art history contexts, exhibition design, texts and room arrangements were elaborated by Dr. Barbara Kaufhold. The virtual exhibition will be thematically arranged throughout 14 exhibition rooms. The conceptual exhibition layout was drafted into ground plot sketches to roughly indicate the spatial design of the virtual museum and to define the positions for the virtual objects.
In this paper, we describe the interdisciplinary development of the Virtual Leopold Fleischhacker Museum’s interior rooms: the digitization of Fleischhacker’s pictorial estate, general metadata capturing, descriptive metadata enrichment and the automated process of transforming ground plot sketches into virtually walkable 3D exhibition rooms. Due to the large set of pictorial exhibits, we utilize the advantages of metadata-based modeling—automated generation of interior exhibition rooms and automatic distribution of exhibits for further manual post processing (Sacher et al., 2012)—as well as the curator software suite ViMEDEAS (Virtual Museum Exhibition Designer Using an Enhanced ARCO Standard), which has already been described in (Biella and Luther, 2009), (Biella et al., 2010b), (Biella et al., 2010a) and (Biella et al., 2012).
2. Exhibition layout and design
The following section will briefly illustrate the concept of the Virtual Leopold Fleischhacker Museum. This includes an overview of room arrangements, architectural design, exhibition themes and color design. All exhibition rooms are rectangular with three exceptions: the octagonal entrance hall, an oval hallway and an exhibition room where we have design freedom to demonstrate stylistic devices for sophisticated room design. This exhibition room will highlight a selection of the reconstructed tombstones and provide access to outdoor areas. The linked outdoor areas are virtual reconstructions of still extant tombstone fields located in two cemeteries in the German Rhine-Ruhr area (Duisburg/Krefeld). The complete exhibition layout is presented in Figure 1.
- The entrance hall is in the shape of a regular octagon and provides access to six exhibition areas. The passages are well-positioned on six opposing walls, each decorated with two Doric pillars. On the two remaining walls are information tableaux showing a portrait of the artist at a young age. The eye-catcher of the entrance hall is a greatly enlarged 3D reconstruction of a signet, which is positioned in the middle of the entrance hall. The polygon-reduced 3D reconstruction, created by S. Yaslar, is depicted in Figure 2. Additional furniture includes four leather seats and the walls are Bordeaux red.
- The second room introduces Leopold Fleischhacker’s private life. Four information tableaux, accompanied by nine pictures, present important key dates from his birth to his passing; his apprenticeship and studies; his family life, career and awards; his flight to Belgium; the impact of his artwork today; as well as the story of the discovery of the artist Leopold Fleischhacker by Dr. Michael Brocke. The walls of the room are slate blue and a plant in the middle of the room serves as additional asset.
- Exhibition rooms 3 and 4 present photographs of plastic art and sculptures crafted by Fleischhacker. The two rooms contain 36 pictures altogether. Textual information in room 3 narrates the period of Fleischhacker’s life after the First World War. The walls of both rooms are decorated with beige wallpaper and benches are used as stylistic accessories in the middle of the rooms.
- Rooms 5 and 6 display images of commissioned and non-commissioned busts, as well as portraits of friends. These portraits illustrate Fleischhacker’s artistic expressiveness and provide insight into his social environment: bourgeois liberal Jewish-German circles. The wall coloring of both rooms is predefined as antique magenta.
- Room 7 exhibits commissioned work of war monuments, memorial tablets and reliefs created to honor Jews who had fallen or died in the First World War. The room is purple in color.
- Rooms 8 and 9 display Fleischhacker’s architectural creations. Here, among other works, visitors can view pictures of an architectural sculpture of the Virgin of Mercy sheltering people; the original is located in Düsseldorf. Visitors can also see a gateway adorned with reliefs from the public library in Wuppertal, gable decorations from the city hall of Oberhausen, as well as eight reliefs allegorically depicting Jewish religious laws, which were part of an exhibition in Düsseldorf in May 1926 concerning health, public welfare and the value of exercise (the “Ausstellung für Gesundheitspflege, soziale Fürsorge und Leibesübungen”, or GeSoLei).
- Room 10 is elliptical in shape and depicts medallions and badges placed in glass vitrines or on pedestals aligned throughout the room. The room features twelve pillars, carefully aligned around the glass vitrines; The walls are golden in color.
- Room 11 houses pictures of small art, craftwork, drawings and bookplates, also known as ex libris, and provides access to the final parts of the virtual museum. The walls are linden green in color.
- The central theme of rooms 12 and 13 is Fleischhacker’s creative process. On display are conceptual plaster models and maquettes for sculptures he never completed. The exhibit includes 25 photographs of drafted war memorials, monuments and a statue of the German poet Heinrich Heine.
- Room 14 exhibits a selection of reconstructed tombstones which can be examined in the entry area. A panoramic window in the room provides a view of a fictional outdoor area, where visitors can inspect two reconstructed tombstone fields located in cemeteries in Germany (Krefeld / Duisburg Sternbuschweg). The walls are ecru, and a domed ceiling with skylights provides incidental light. The design decisions for room 14 were motivated by the idea of representing the virtual tombstones as art, without depicting Jewish grave care traditions (eastern orientation) or consecrated environments but with access to re-modeled tombstone fields. The exterior contour plot of room 14 will be defined by circular, cornered or oval alcoves located along the northern and western walls, with each alcove housing a selected tombstone. The exhibited tombstones are 3D reconstructions abstracted from various cemeteries located in the German Rhine-Ruhr area (Duisburg, Dinslaken, Krefeld).
Figure 1: Exhibition layout
Figure 2: Polygon-reduced signet reconstruction
3. Creating the virtual museum
The following section illustrates the design decisions and individual steps that were taken to develop the Virtual Leopold Fleischhacker Museum. Due to the large content base and the predominantly rectangular room shapes—predefined by conceptual plot sketches—we used a generative metadata-based modeling approach provided by the curator suite ViMEDEAS. The technical perspective on the generative modeling approach is described in (Sacher et al., 2012).
For better understanding and for the sake of completeness, we will briefly introduce and summarize the 3D framework, metadata format and curator software used. The following text passage is a variation extracted from our earlier publications (Biella and Luther, 2009), (Biella et al., 2010b), (Biella et al., 2010a) and (Biella et al., 2012). The curator suite ViMEDEAS includes authoring tools, frameworks and an XML-based metadata set to describe virtual museums and seeks to support the entire design process of virtual museums: planning, creation, archiving, dissemination and presentation. The metadata set ViMCOX (Virtual Museum and Cultural Object Exchange Format) (Wolf et al., 2012), which is included in ViMEDEAS, describes virtual museums containing classical, contemporary or born-digital art. ViMCOX was developed to support the hierarchical description of virtual museums and provides stylistic devices for sophisticated and vivid exhibition design, which cannot be achieved using classic museum standards. ViMCOX supports interactive exhibition content, assets, outdoor areas and spatial exhibition design, including illumination concepts. The metadata set ViMCOX is based on international metadata standards and uses LIDO version 1.0 (Coburn et al., 2010) as an interchange and harvesting format for cultural objects. The Replicave framework is used to present exhibitions locally or online (Biella et al., 2012). Replicave is a Java-based X3D/X3Dom toolkit for programmatic modeling of 3D scenes. The key idea was to provide a cost-efficient way to create virtual museum exhibitions by reusing 3D models and dynamically generated content. Replicave generates 3D content at runtime, based on exhibition templates or ViMCOX metadata instances.
Digitization and metadata enrichment
The 3D tombstones as well as the signet reconstruction were elaborated in diploma theses and student assignments at the University of Duisburg-Essen, using geometric modeling techniques. Fleischhacker’s pictorial estate was scanned and recorded as ViMCOX XML instances as described in (Sacher et al., 2012) and has been, where applicable, enriched with additional descriptive metadata. For this purpose, we provided a simplistic metadata editor to automate data acquisition: generating thumbnail and texture, assigning unique identifiers, determining the virtual dimensions of each digital copy and creating a suitable folder structure for further automated processing. The virtual dimensions were predefined to have an area of no more than one square meter while preserving the original aspect ratio of each image. The Epidat database developed and hosted by the Steinheim-Institut provides epigraphic information about Jewish tombstones, including descriptive information, inscriptions and transcriptions (Steinheim-Institut, 2011). These additional metadata will be stored with the virtual tombstone objects to be visualized in the virtual world.
Our algorithm, presented in (Sacher et al., 2012), generates exhibition rooms based on ViMCOX object metadata and a small set of parameters that define the order and spacing of the virtual objects (exhibits, doors and information tableaux in poster size) as well as the initial room height. Initial textures for walls, ceiling and floors are preset. The algorithm calculates room dimensions; it also determines the position and calculates a default viewpoint for each virtual object. To calculate wall lengths, the algorithm refers to the virtual object dimensions stored in the corresponding ViMCOX metadata instances. The result is a single assembled ViMCOX metadata file, containing the generated rooms with viewpoints, thresholds (doors/logical transitions) and referenced objects as well as copies of the initial virtual ViMCOX object instances. Initial parameters for automatic generation of object arrangements and interior design were deﬁned as described in (Sacher et al., 2012): The bottom edge of each image is aligned using an invisible auxiliary line at 1.1m; information tableaux are positioned at ground level; spacing between digital objects (images, tableaux) on each wall is set to 1.0m, while the spacing between doors and objects is set to 0.5m; and the initial wall height is 2.5m. All specified assets need to be added manually in the post-processing procedure.
The outer hull of room 10, the oval hallway, is constructed using a Lamé curve (super ellipse). Programmatic and procedural modeling techniques and varying construction parameters were used to determine the ideal room dimensions, optimal distribution of pillars and best exhibit arrangement in terms of viewing and navigation experience perceived in the virtual 3D world. We elaborated two interpretations based on the plot sketches provided and various options for exhibiting the pictorial material. We had the choice of exhibiting the photographs in combination with glass vitrines or with podiums. It is possible to align the exhibits in a line or in a two-row formation along the semi-major axis of the oval room shape. Furthermore, we had to consider optional spacing parameters between individual exhibits. Our goal was to stay as close as possible to the curator’s original plot, shape and specifications. We developed two design concepts and 3D rooms that can be assigned when assembling the final version in post-processing. This is possible without further programming because the calculated parameters and positional information are transformed into corresponding ViMCOX metadata instances. Transitions can be modified by adjusting the bi-directional links between the rooms. Transition information defining which doors and rooms connect with one another are stored for each room in the metadata description of the virtual museum. Figure 3 shows the proposed room layouts as raw 3D models. It is possible to reduce the room length by half—from 60m to 30m—by varying the exhibit formation and spacing. However, a larger room with horizontally aligned and oriented exhibits provides, in the authors’ opinion, a better look and feel in terms of freedom of movement and freestanding formation of exhibits and is a good tradeoff between narrow room size and movement expenses. We also facilitate the use of podiums with top-mounted photographs in poster size instead of adulterating glass cases enveloping the pictorial material.
Figure 3: Raw 3D models of exhibition room 10
4. User Interface
To illustrate descriptive notes briefly describing the digitized pictorial material, our algorithm locates small information tablets next to the virtual object representations. It should be noted that we distinguish between poster-sized information tableaux on walls, which are explicitly defined as additional assets to illustrate contextual exhibition information, on the one hand, and, on the other, descriptive notes stored in virtual exhibit metadata. With respect to larger textual content and its possible impact on the viewing experience, we decided to dispense with the visualization of 3D text on the information tablets. To bypass this issue we utilize head-up displays (HUDs) to display object descriptions in the virtual world. Users can invoke the HUDs by clicking on the information tablets.
5. Outdoor areas
This section briefly describes the virtual reconstructions of still extant tombstones and tombstone fields. Historical contexts were translated from the Epidat database (Steinheim-Institut, 2011).
The cemetery at Duisburg Sternbuschweg hosts two Jewish tombstone fields. The ownership of the plots in the fields was revoked in 1943. The plots were not reassigned but cleared, and the tombstones were sold. After intervention by Jewish families, the British military government initiated restoration of the tombstone fields and the replacement of lost tombstones. The tombstone fields representing Leopold Fleischhacker’s work at the Sternbuschweg cemetery in Duisburg are reconstructions approximating the real world originals and were created in diploma theses by S. Yesilkaya, D. Ruan and J. Sun.
The new Jewish cemetery in Krefeld was built in 1901. During the Nazi era, the cemetery was vandalized, and metal elements as well as many tombstones were stolen. The cemetery still houses over 800 tombstones, including a number of stones moved from the Meerbusch-Osterath Jewish cemetery in Düsseldorf. In the virtual cemetery, we exhibit 3D reconstructed tombstones in a creative fictional formation elaborated by M. Karnuth. A real approximation of the tombstone fields was not possible due to the unfavorable distribution on site. A selection of the reconstructed tombstones created by M. Karnuth is depicted in Figure 4.
Figure 4 : Selection of tombstones
The generated exhibition rooms serve as an initial starting point for further manual processing and visual design. This includes the assignment of suitable textures, color coordination, fine-tuning of object positions and scale, addition of picture frames or passe-partouts and the inclusion of assets or avatars to create more lifelike exhibition rooms and to suit the curator’s preferences and perceptions. Furthermore, the procedural algorithms used to generate the metadata representation of the virtual exhibition rooms do not yet take into account automated linking of rooms or outdoor areas. For this reason, the logical linking of transitions is currently designated as a manual task to be carried out by content creators.
Our modeling approach based on native metadata still requires knowledge of software engineering and it is mainly designed for experienced users and IT experts. Nevertheless, we want to provide generative presets, interfaces, authoring tools and simplified configuration models to enhance the user experience and usability for other domain-specific user groups in the cultural heritage sector. We believe that exhibition design is a iterative and creative process, and the advantages of the interposed metadata layer consist in the separation of 3D visualization techniques, which promotes independent use of different 3D engines such as X3D, X3Dom (or in future prospects WebGL, Unity3D, XNA …), and the semantic and hierarchical description of virtual exhibitions. In addition, we support the combination of manually created, auto-generated, prototyped or dummy content, which can be replaced during the design process.
Our generative approach becomes efficient with large content bases and when regular polygonal room shapes are desired. The supported room shapes are appropriate for dynamic content generation or virtual museums without extravagant architectural design. One limitation is that each room is a self-contained standalone instance and transitions to other exhibition areas can only be achieved using logical transitions. This feature set is already available in ViMEDEAS, but has not yet been considered as part of our dynamic content generation approach. Nevertheless, this limitation can also be considered an advantage as it allows prototyping of the exhibition layout and varying of the transitions between rooms. Content creators can easily swap or rearrange rooms, change the layout of doors within an exhibition room by regenerating the room, reuse rooms in other projects or design fictional floor plans which would otherwise be impossible because directly connected rooms would overlap due to room size constraints.
In future versions, we want to integrate a user interface in the form of a mini-map or exhibition flyer that shows an abstract view of the available museum rooms and provides direct access to other exhibition areas by teleporting the virtual visitor.
Many thanks to our students and collaborators Oezguer Asci, David Hopmann, Bojana Jakimovska, Mengmeng Jia, Manuel Karnuth, Tim Lechtenfeld, Christoph Lesch, André Lingemann, Sebastian Matheke, Yuwei Pan, Dun Ruan, Jie Sun, Yang Song, Andy Swoboda, Benjamin Weyers, Julian Weyers, Paul Wloch, Valentin Wolf, Lukas Wozniak, Jennifer Wiest, Da Yang, Serdar Yaslar, Sener Yesilkaya and Ahmet Yilmaz for their valuable summaries of their diploma work and for carefully implementing the software, building the virtual museums and creating and testing many models and examples.
Biella, D. and Luther, W. (2009). A parameterizable framework for replicated experiments in virtual 3D environments. In Cordeiro, J., Hammoudi, S., and Filipe, J., editors, Web Information Systems and Technologies, Volume 18 of Lecture Notes in Business Information Processing, pp. 361–374. Springer Berlin Heidelberg.
Biella, D., Luther, W., and Baloian, N. (2010a). Beyond the ARCO standard. In 16th International Conference on Virtual Systems and Multimedia (VSMM), pp. 184–191.
Biella, D., Luther, W., and Baloian, N. (2010b). Virtual Museum Exhibition Designer Using Enhanced ARCO Standard. In XXIX International Conference of the Chilean Computer Science Society (SCCC), pp. 226–235.
Biella, D., Luther,W., and Sacher, D. (2012). Schema Migration into a Web-based Framework for generating virtual museums and laboratories. In Proceedings of the 18th International Conference on Virtual Systems and Multimedia, Virtual Systems in the Information Society. IEEE Computer Society. ISBN 978-1-4673-2565-3.
Brocke, M. (1988). Leopold Fleischhacker, Bildhauer, Duesseldorf – Ausstellung Duisburg, 21.4.– 20.5.88.
Coburn, E., Light, R., Mckenna, G., Stein, R., and Vitzthum, A. (2010). LIDO: Lightweight Information Describing Objects, Specification Version 1.0.
Sacher, D., Biella, D., and Luther, W. (2013). A generative approach to virtual museums. Paper accepted at WEBIST 2013.
Steinheim-Institut (2011). Epidat: Epigraphical database. http://www.steinheim-institut.de/cgi-bin/epidat?lang=en. [Online; accessed 05.11.2012].
Wolf, V., Song, Y., Sacher, D., Luther, W., and Biella, D. (2012). ViMCOX: Virtual Museum and Cultural Object Exchange Format, Specification Version 1.1. http://www.vimedeas.com/wordpress/?page_id=40. [Online; accessed 05.11.2012].
D. Sacher, W. Luther, B. Kaufhold, M. Brocke, M. Heitmann and D. Biella, The Virtual Leopold Fleischhacker Museum. In Museums and the Web 2013, N. Proctor & R. Cherry (eds). Silver Spring, MD: Museums and the Web. Published January 21, 2013. Consulted .