The cross-border (CB) area, is characterized by a rich and diverse cultural heritage in a unique natural beauty setting that could form the basis for tourism development. Cultural heritage has been preserved in various printed and audiovisual material (aka Cultural Heritage Objects) that are stored in libraries across this area. However, many of such CHOs that are part of the history, tradition and culture of the two nations, are being stored behind glass showcases or in the basement of the Libraries with no access to visitors due to their sensitive condition or increased significance. Also, some of those assets cannot be digitised since are too sensitive and their quality is too low because they have suffered partial damages or age-related corrosion.
VirtuaLand, addresses overall objective of the programme and the SO 2.1, and leads to a significant opportunity to use significant cultural assets to promote tourism in the CB area.
The overall objective is to: (i) identify, protect and preserve cultural heritage of the CB area through highlighting content included in rare, old, significant assets included in the Libraries.
(ii) act as a novel touristic concept that will result to an innovative attraction pole for all tourists visiting the area. The central feature is to provide tourists the opportunity to live an in-depth experience with tangible and intangible assets and better understand the traditions, history and culture of the CB area.
To this end, VirtuaLand will deliver a Virtual Reality (VR) interactive platform, where selected CHOs are converted to cultural and touristic scenarios. The CHOs will be mainly acquired from the Repositories “Olympias” and “EpirusMnimon” of the University of Ioannina Library that hold rare essays with significant cultural content of the CB area as well as old assets from the University of Gjirokaster Library and the Central Public Library of Konitsa.
Users will not only browse the assets of interest, but will experience life into another era, identify the living conditions of that period and interact with characters that will enhance their experience.
VirtuaLand will produce a library of 3D objects and an open VR platform, that will be used by librarians and tourism professionals with limited programming skills to create their own VR stories, increasing the sustainability of this initiative. Thus, training activities are foreseen for the use and extension of the VirtuaLand platform.
Two VR Halls (one in Greece and one in Albania), will be created to demonstrate the VR created content to groups of tourists. Thus, the Libraries will be transformed to an alternative high tech information point and a starting point for all tourists visiting CB area.
Finally, VirtuaLand results to a common brand name for Greece and Albania, the “VirtuaLand” brand that will include VR packages to promote the common natural, cultural and historical identity of the CB area.