Virtual reality technology is changing the game in storytelling. At the Newseum, visitors can now step back into time for seven minutes and experience communist East Berlin at the height of the Cold War.
Using a VR headset, headphones and two handheld controllers, visitors can walk through the deserted streets of East Berlin and witness the communist propaganda posters and austere atmosphere that characterized the walled-off city. Although visitors are safely tethered within a 10-foot-by-10-foot space inside the museum, their experience is punctuated by the anxiety of dodging the guard tower searchlights that sweep “no-man’s land” looking for wall jumpers. Once back on the West Berlin side of the wall, visitors can use their controllers to help break down the decades-old barrier to freedom.
After concluding the VR experience, visitors can make their way down to the Newseum’s Hubbard Concourse Level, where eight sections of the Berlin Wall and an actual East Berlin guard tower have been on exhibit since the Newseum opened. The Berlin Wall exhibit explores the history of the wall and reminds visitors of the struggles worldwide to preserve or obtain the right to free expression and religious liberty.
The Berlin Wall VR experience is presented in partnership with HTC Vive, a first-of-its-kind VR system that offers an unparalleled sense of VR immersion. “Berlin Wall” is the most technologically advanced VR experience the Newseum has presented since it began incorporating the technology into its exhibits in 2016. The Berlin Wall is the first of several artifacts in the museum’s collection that will be explored through VR over the coming year.
“Berlin Wall: The Virtual Reality Experience” is free with paid admission to the Newseum. It’s open now through December 2018.