After presenting a successful workshop entitled “Digital Storytelling as a new form of conveying information” within the NEP4DISSENT COST Action, we were contacted by Dr. James Kapalo, the Principal Investigator of the ERC project “Hidden Galleries” to discuss digitisation of exhibition of documents about Soviet religious underground from Secret Services archives in Soviet Union.

Finding the topic very exciting and challenging, we decided to establish collaboration between his institution, the School of Society, Politics and Ethics, University College Cork, Ireland and Sarajevo Graphics Group/DIGI.BA from University of Sarajevo. We named the digital exhibition “Underground” and, upon receiving the exhibits files, engaged our screenplay writer Fatmir Alispahic to create 5 digital stories scenarios. Dr. Tatiana Vagramenko, researcher from the “Hidden Galleries” team came to Sarajevo for one week in February 2021, to work with us on the visual styling and concept of the application. 

We decided together to engage the actor Adnan Haskovic, to be the narrator in all stories, playing five different roles. His transformation was enabled by the fantastic costumes designed by Adisa Vatreš Selimović and Monika Moćević and make up by Naida Đekić.  Adnan Mušanović composed the music according to the elements of Russian, Ukrainian and Moldovan religious themes and created new arrangements for some authentic recordings. Bojan Mijatović recorded the actor on the green screen. Aida Sadžak created 3D models of virtual environments depicting underground spaces where believers were hiding and performing their prayers in fear of the Soviet secret police.

The digital exhibition application is implemented in WebGL, as desktop Virtual Reality. It was developed by Ivona Ivković Kihić and Edo Škaljo. We decided for this format because not many potential users possess VR headsets. The online visitors enter in the stories from the original image of the scheme of underground religious groups, created by KGB. In each virtual environment the actor tells the story about the particular case of resistance and retribution. After that, the users can click on exhibits and see the images of original documents from the physical exhibition together with explanations about them. The landing page offers information about the “Hidden Galleries” project and teams that created the “Underground”.

The digital exhibition was promoted at the final event of the “Hidden Galleries” project „Secret Police and the Study of Religions: Archives, Communities and Contested Memories“ conference, held online on 18th March 2021. The impressions of the digital visitors are very good. All of the people who saw it by now are impressed and excited about this way of presenting dark heritage. They said they felt immersion and strong emotion conveyed through digital storytelling. The UCC team is very happy about the final result and they plan to expand the exhibition with more digital stories.

Bosnian media also found this exhibition very interesting and published several articles about it. The University of Sarajevo proudly published the news about the project on their official web page.

The Underground digital exhibition is online and waiting for your visit.