Secrets of Palazzo Falson gets users to play in and explore a piece of prime cultural heritage

The desire to uncover a lost mystery resides deep in all of us – remnants of afternoons spent in the company of the likes of Nancy Drew or the Famous Five – gleaning insights from the innocuous clues of our surroundings to uncover a secret lost to the ages.

Those feelings of sleuthing, adventure and gaining the knowledge of a lost story are perfectly captured in the new AR game Secrets of Palazzo Falson.

While the technology must be complex, the user experience is simple, utilising only a smartphone application to take visitors around the museum to look for clues and uncover a centuries-old mystery.

Combing through the 800-year-old palazzo room by room, taking your time through its ornate collections and roaming through its elaborate and lush courtyard, visitors will uncover the story of Lady Caterina, who once lived and met her tragic end in the halls.

The story, while fictional, created by Greek author Eleni Papadopoulou, is a tragic romance conceived against the backdrop of medieval Mdina.

Storytelling is unique and singularly engaging, making players really take their time with the museum and its exhibits to unlock the next bit of information.

Keen-eyed players use their smartphones to scan the room, all of which have clues to uncover or items to collect. Successfully completing a room rewards the player with the next bit of story, which is communicated either through text or brought to life in effervescent colour through the talents of the voice actors in audio form.

An engaging way of helping visitors experience the museum anew

The app, which was designed by local tech company Mighty Box, works by pointing your device’s camera at surroundings, displaying imaginary images on screen. In Secrets of Palazzo Falson, this sees paintings coming to life, ghostly apparitions, characters talking and objects to move as they need to.

This is a particular feat because it was developed without the use of markers, which would have interfered with the natural aesthetic of the museum.

The innovative and entertaining experience was made possible through a partnership between Fondazzjoni Patrimonju Malti that manages Palazzo Falson and the Vodafone Malta Foundation.

The project came about through the Connecting for Good Programme, which focuses on using mobile technology to forward social good.

“We are using cutting-edge augmented reality technology, which is a first for any museum in Malta. It is an engaging way of helping visitors experience the museum anew while also rendering the museum more attractive, particularly to children and teenagers, who may not be museum-goers,” Vodafone Malta Foundation chairman Michel Macelli said.

Palazzo Falson’s curator, Caroline Tonna, said the project was an opportunity to use new technology at the museum. She hoped that, through the game, visitors would be inspired and further enticed to learn more about the museum and its exhibits.

“The AR game involves the personal interaction of the visitor with the real objects in our collections that are given a different interpretation and perspective. At Palazzo Falson, we are moving ahead with the times and giving more value to our museum,” Ms Tonna said.

Secrets of Palazzo Falson can be downloaded for free on a mobile or tablet upon purchase of a ticket at Palazzo Falson Historic House Museum, in Mdina.

The game is suitable for ages 12+. For more information call on 2145 4512 or send an email to bookings@palazzofalson.com.