Virtual Reality Awakens Historic Old Narva

Starting from 10th of August, the renovated Narva Town Hall will host a virtual reality exhibition, the first of its kind in Estonia. The exciting attraction uses virtual reality glasses and touchscreens to bring the city of Narva to life as it was before the bombing of World War II. With the help of VR glasses, visitors can also experience being in Narva during the Swedish era. This unique mode of time travel is suitable for both schoolchildren and adults. If you are looking for adventure, this is the place to go to in Narva!

Narva is a city with a long history. It has been ruled by the Danes, Germans, Russians, Swedes, and Estonians. Every century has changed Narva. This city, which has suffered several fires and has been repeatedly burned down, has almost always been built back up. During World War II, Narva became, for a time, a city on the front line, a battlefield between two great powers. The situation became especially dire in March 1944, when the invading Soviet forces bombed Narva with unprecedented vigour, destroying almost the entire Old Town. The people who returned to the city after the hostilities found only ruins of the former Baroque pearl of the Baltic Sea. This time, unlike in the past, the old buildings were not rebuilt. Now the virtual exposition ‘The New Life of Old Narva’ restores the city’s former glory.

With tablets, guests can view 3D-model of Old Narva and get acquainted with the pre-war life of the city. On the walls of the exhibition hall, there are two large displays with tactile models. One of them has a 3D-printed model of Old Narva, which is based on Fedor Shantsyn’s paper model and an old model of the city from Narva Castle. The second has sections of the facades of Old Narva’s marketplaces. In addition to these tactile models, the panels have texts for the visually impaired.

Visitors with VR glasses will find themselves in the Town Hall Square, established in the 17th century, and walking along the streets of Old Narva. In addition to the architecture, modern technology is also used to tell stories by locals with extraordinary lives. These help visitors discover completely new sides of Narva, experience history through the eyes of the inhabitants of the time, solve exciting tasks, and visit some places that still exist in Narva today.

For example, the exhibition tells the story of Anna Regina Kramer, among others. When Peter the Great conquered Narva, the Kramer family was sent to Russia in 1708. Anna was destined for St. Petersburg and the court of the Tsar. There she enjoyed the favour of the Tsar’s family and over the years she was entrusted with more and more responsibilities. It wasn’t until 1728 that Anna returned to Narva, where she remained for the rest of her life. The Empress gave Joala Manor to Anna. The Kreenholm factory was later built on the old manor site. She was also given full exclusive rights to export logs from Narva, which was an exceptionally lucrative business thanks to the Narva River. At that time, Narva was one of the largest timber processing centres in Northern Europe, which is why such a gift was very valuable. Local rumours suggest that when Catherine the Great visited Estonia in 1764, she also visited Anna Kramer while passing through Narva. However, one must be mindful of the sources of these biographies because they are first and foremost based on urban lore over the centuries, and no direct biographical sources have been preserved.

Virtual Old Narva is intended for both individual visitors and groups. The centre can accommodate up to forty people at a time. Come by yourself or with your family! Come with schoolmates! Narva Town Hall is located at Raekoja plats 1, Narva, and is open every day. The opening times of the exhibition ‘The New Life of Old Narva’ can be seen following the link.

The virtual Old Narva exposition was created as part of “The New Life of Old Narva” project, supported by the European Regional Development Fund through the Estonian Business and Innovation Agency and funded as part of the EU’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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