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Refugi 307

Refugi 307 – Design of a Virtual Heritage Experience

Refugi 307 – Design of a Virtual Heritage Experience
We are currently designing a Virtual Heritage experience for a Spanish bomb shelter, namely Refugi 307. The prototype is based on the World-as-Support interaction paradigm aimed to complement learning contents of the guided visit.

Designing interactive experiences for cultural heritage sites is particularly challenging. Archaeological sites acquire their importance and meaning through situatedness; i. e. meaning about historical contexts is provided by the fact that the visitor is actually physically present on site. However, these spaces often cannot be modified by adding physical objects or installations. Thus, learning experiences are often complemented by guided visits to direct visitors’ attention towards aspects that are not obvious without further explanations. Nevertheless, visitors still need to imagine missing artifacts, people living at that period and related events. Due to limited expertise, it may be particularly difficult for visitors to imagine certain contents.

Starting from these challenges, we are currently designing a Virtual Heritage experience for the Spanish bomb shelter Refugi 307 aimed to complement learning contents of the guided visit. Therefore, in this project we are exploring differente strategies to enhance the visitor experience within the physical space of the shelter and to complement learning contents of the guided visit. We specifically focus on the potentials of the World-as-Support interaction paradigm to support the following user awareness categories.

  • Environment awareness AR activities: Awareness of the environment may be fostered through projections on surfaces and objects to represent missing content at their original locations; e.g. the signs describing shelter behavior rules can be projected on areas of the walls that are now empty.


  • Context awareness AR activities: Users can be made aware of historical events of the local context by projecting situated audiovisual content; e.g. project a testimonial of a woman who volunteered as a nurse in the space that was dedicated to the infirmary of the shelter.


  • Social awareness AR activities: The system can split content between multiple users, each having a World-as-Support system, and foster movement-based collaborative activities; e.g. two users project each a different half of an object that needs to be recomposed through their collaboration. 


Design Process of the Virtual Heritage Experience

The design of the Virtual Heritage experience was conducted as an iterative process. 

Gathering project requirements

We conducted an ethnographic and Participatory Design (PD) study to analyse the project’s requirements and include different needs and view points of the involved stakeholders. Details of the study:

  • Three project meetings with a curator, a museum educator and a visit guide.
  • Interviews with three visit guides and four teachers from three different local schools that visited Refugi 307 with their class.
  • Guided visits with two school classes and two PD sessions with each of them, 40 children (girls = 18; mean age = 10.78 years old) participated in this design stage.

Our proposal for the Virtual Heritage experience

Based on our findings, we proposed Virtual Heritage experience activities as follows: 

  • Multiple location-based events will allow us to present content from different perspectives and allow users to compare them.
  • These activities help children understand changes in society, different standpoints upon historical events (e.g. active vs. passive defense), and long-term effects of the civil war (e.g. collective trauma).
  • By performing similar actions to those performed by civilians during the war, children better understand feelings of solidarity and empathy of people in these situations. 

Evaluating potentials of the World-as-Support interaction paradigm

We defined seven activities based on a low-tech prototype using Philips PicoPix PPX3414 pico-projectors. The system allowed the children to carry around the device and to project audiovisual contents directly on the physical environment. In this study, we focused on exploring the affordances of using projective AR and participative activities that promoted social interaction. 

We conducted a guided visit with a school class of 20 students (girls = 11; boys = 9; age mean = 9.95 years old) using the Virtual Heritage experience and two workshop sessions to evaluate affordances of the World-as-Support interaction paradigm and define improvements of the first design iteration. 

Our findings showed that the World-as-Support interaction paradigm is particularly appropriate for on-site cultural heritage applications for archaeological sites. On the one hand, using the World-as-Support interaction paradigm allows us enriching the visit at appropriate times and places without being intrusive or altering the physical space. On the other hand, using projective AR and collaborative learning activities allows visitors to explore the physical environment in meaningful ways and to construct meaning by discovering new layers of the learning experience. Our future work will focus on developing and evaluating a fully functional prototype to explore other potential of the World-as-Support interaction paradigm; e.g. the implementation of a gesture and surface recognition system. 

Related Publications

Marie-Monique Schaper, Maria Santos, and Narcis Pares. (2018). Orchestrating experts’ assumptions and children’s values in the design of Virtual Heritage experiences. International Journal of Child-Computer Interaction. DOI=

Marie-Monique Schaper, Maria Santos, Laura Malinverni, Juan Zerbini Berro and Narcis Pares. (2018). Learning about the past through situatedness, embodied exploration and digital augmentation of cultural heritage sites. International Journal of Human-Computer Studies. DOI=

Marie-Monique Schaper, Maria Santos, Laura Malinverni and Narcis Pares. (2017). Co-Designing Virtual Heritage Experiences for Archaeological Sites based on the novel AR Paradigm World-as-Support ACM Celebration of Women in Computing, WomENCourage Conference 2017. See conference abstract 

Maria Santos, Marie-Monique Schaper, and Narcis Pares. 2017. Moving through the past: design and evaluation of a full-body interaction learning environment for a public space. In Proceedings of the XVIII International Conference on Human Computer Interaction (Interacción '17). ACM, New York, NY, USA, Article 54, 3 pages. DOI:

Marie-Monique Schaper, Maria Santos, Laura Malinverni and Narcis Pares. (2017). Towards the Design of a Virtual Heritage Experience based on the World-as-Support Interaction Paradigm. In Proceedings of the 2017 CHI Conference Extended Abstracts on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI EA '17). DOI=


Principal researchers

Narcis Pares


Marie-Monique Schaper
Maria Santos Baranco
Juan Zerbini Berro

Museu d'Historia de Barcelona


Supported by the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness (Grant TIN2014-60599-P)