Six Rooms, Six Stories – how DIVA tells the enchanting history of silver, jewellery & diamonds in Antwerp

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DIVA, Antwerp Home of Diamonds, has now opened its doors to the public. Located in the heart of Antwerp’s historic city centre, a precious stone’s throw from the neighbourhood where diamond merchants, goldsmiths and silversmiths have been plying their trades and perfecting their craft since the sixteenth century, this new museum tells the story of the world’s most desirable minerals. Centre Screen were responsible for the AV and interactive content design. Producer Dave Thompson takes us on a tour of this new visitor attraction.

‘DIVA takes the visitor on an engaging exploration of the history of diamonds and precious metals. The museum is divided into six rooms, each with a distinct feel and approach.

To illustrate this story, DIVA has drawn on the collections of former diamond and silver museums, and on the numerous lenders now working with the museum. At DIVA, content meets museum experience. A lot of research work in archives and libraries was done by the curator of DIVA, Romy Cockx. Centre Screen supported where they could and were asked to.

‘The first room, the Wunderkammer or Room of Wonder, tells of European collectors and how they curated collections of incredible objects, objets d’arts and objets de curiosité, gathered from round the globe as sea travel took European vessels further and further away from home. The stories of these exquisite objects are told with 11 interactive screens that engage visitors and provide details and context, while a 65” interactive multi-touch map brings the locations of Wunderkammers in historic Antwerp to life. In this room, visitors get their first opportunity to hear audio plays created by noted scriptwriter Frank van Laeke. These plays weave a narrative across the museum, bringing key characters and objects to life, and giving the visitor the impression of eavesdropping on history.

‘The second room, the Atelier or Workshop, explores the craft and artistry needed to create such exquisite objects, focusing on the skills and tools used. Two separate interactives demonstrate the history and processes of diamond-cutting and silversmithing, while visitors sit at stylised workbenches.

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‘An animated multimedia globe is the striking focal and talking point of the third room, called Handel or Trade. Created using PufferSphere® technology, the 1.2 metre globe is accompanied with interactive screens. Visitors explore the trade routes that brought diamonds to Antwerp through surrounding interactive displays that include more colourful audio plays.

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‘Visitors get a chance to relax in style in the fourth room, the Eetkammer or Dining Room, sitting at a lavish dining table and learning about the evolution of cutlery, plates and table manners while conversational audio snippets and a surrounding photographic trompe l’oeil immerses them in old Antwerp.

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‘Objects of great value always attract magpies. For the fifth room, the Kluis or Vault, visitors step into the museum’s strong room to learn about diamond crime and security. Visitors are invited to engage in interactive detective work, following clues found in deposit boxes, as films and animations give an insight into theft, counterfeiting and forgery, and the measures taken to combat them.

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‘Finally, climatically, the visitors enter the sixth room, the Boudoir. Here the link between diamonds, desire and romance are explored, both seriously and with tongue in cheek. Screens explore the ideas and objects associated with the Diva, while an interactive allows visitors to create images of themselves wearing fabulous jewellery, and encourages them to share these images on social media.

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‘We’re delighted that Bruns asked us to join the project. It’s been terrific to work on, and a testament to the collaborative team work and dedication of DIVA, Frank van Laeke, Carla Janssen Höfelt, Bruns, CREATE, Mario de Munck and Centre Screen. We had a relatively short amount of time for a project of this detail, so pressure was high, but we all came through and created something to be proud of. From a Centre Screen perspective, I’m particularly proud of the way the audio works, both guiding and immersing the visitor in the experience. Not just an audio guide, it contains great little dramas as Frank’s creations tell the stories of key characters and objects, and our audio programmes in Handel and Kluis add further insight and context. And from a personal point of view, I’m delighted with the trompe l’oeil effect my large format photographic prints have in the dining room.’

DIVA Antwerp is open to the public now, welcoming visitors six days a week, closing only on Wednesdays. For details, visit http://www.divaantwerp.be/en

 

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