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Explore Notre Dame throughout history in new augmented reality exhibit at DC museum

J-P Mauro - published on 04/13/22

Cutting edge technology allows visitors to immerse themselves in Notre Dame de Paris in a variety of significant historical eras.

A new exhibition will bring Notre Dame de Paris back to life much sooner than the cathedral’s projected reopening date in 2024. Called Notre-Dame de Paris: The Augmented Exhibition, this interactive art show utilizes cutting edge technology to give visitors a glimpse into the cathedral’s storied past. The installation is making its North American debut at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C. on April 15.

The exhibit

The exhibit uses 360-degree augmented reality (AR) to immerse visitors in Notre Dame’s 850 years of history. Those who attend the exhibition will be provided with a “HistoPad,” a tablet that facilitates the AR program and guides the viewer through a tour of Notre Dame. This technology was developed by Histovery, a French startup that has been collaborating with the conservation and restoration effort of the last three years.

Histovery’s Co-founder and CEO, Bruno de Sa Moreira, said of their work with the National Building Museum: 

“The National Building Museum is the perfect venue for this exhibition to debut in the US. The Museum was established to preserve and celebrate the building arts, and its mission is to inspire curiosity about the world we design and build. That focus, and its commitment to prioritize the role of innovation in their programming, is in total alignment with our goals.”


The HistoPad allows users to interact with the exhibit, and offers them a selection of points in history from which to view Notre Dame. Visitors can choose to explore the Middle Ages, when Notre Dame was still under construction; the coronation of Napoleon, in 1804; and the erection of the Viollet-le-Duc spire, in 1859. The hand-held device will also take visitors through the complex conservation efforts that have been undertaken since the 2019 fire

The AR technology is supported by physical scenery that will add to the immersive nature of the exhibit. In the announcement, The National Building Museum boasted vinyl replicas of the cathedral’s floors and stained glass transfers that overlay the museum’s windows. The sounds of Notre Dame’s organ and bells will further accentuate the multi-sensory experience. 


The National Building Museum noted that the exhibition will include large photo panels and 3D models of the cathedral and its ornamentation. These will serve as “portals” for the HistoPad that will signal it to cue up the next portion of the exhibit. The museum highlighted some of the historical periods where these portals can lead: 

“Interactive reconstructions show how builders and craftspeople laid the first stones in the 1160s, constructed the Gothic Choir in 1180, the arrival of the Holy Crown carried by Saint Louis in 1241 … Visitors can scroll through a timeline of the cathedral’s construction history and select options on each screen for more detail.”

The inaugural showing of Notre-Dame de Paris: The Augmented Exhibition already launched at the Collège des Bernardins in Paris. The National Building Museum’s exhibit is scheduled to open on April 15 and will run until September 26. 

For more information, visit the National Building Museum’s website.

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