Virtual Worlds project announcement

Jitte Waagen, Tijm Lanjouw

The 4DRL is partner in a new international ERASMUS+ project on Virtual Reality and education in the field of Archaeology, Ancient Studies and Art History. This blog post is intended as a project announcement in which we will share the basic ideas of the project and what we aim to achieve.


For archaeology as a material and object-oriented discipline digital 3D methods play an increasingly important role in research and teaching. Local initiatives have emerged at several locations in Europe that use the new digital possibilities of 3D and VR technologies and introduce students to them. So far, there has been no cross-linking of these initiatives, so that opportunities to create added value through collaboration are missed and local initiatives hardly have impact beyond the institute where they have been developed. Yet the creation of archaeological 3D models and VR worlds and to integrate them into teaching in a meaningful way are of fundamental importance for the future and digital transformation of teaching at Higher Educational Institutes. Students must be trained in this, standards for sharing and exchanging virtual worlds must be developed further, and Seamless Learning scenarios must be created at universities to better incorporate the advantages of 3D and VR technologies into education.

Virtual Worlds

Against the background of these necessities, the universities of Bonn, Amsterdam (UvA), Oslo and the Open Universiteit in The Netherlands have gathered in a partnership to develop and test learning scenarios using 3D datasets and VR environments. Local initiatives, experiences, and existing datasets, will be brought together on a European level. We will explore how we can improve teaching in archaeology by developing virtual worlds using interoperable learning scenarios, and design these in a way that they will be reusable in other educational and creative contexts.

Screenshot of the VR of Rome, developed by the 4DRL in the context of the Virtual Past Places project for the course Masses in Antiquity.

Objectives, activities and projected outcomes

We have formulated a series of concrete objectives. First, we aim to establish virtual worlds as Open Educational Resources by sharing, standardising, and making available 3D datasets and VR environments. We will gather, produce, and describe 3D datasets of archaeological objects and sites used for teaching at the participating institutes and make them openly available. Interoperability will be ensured by the development of general VR learning scenarios that allow their integration into curricula of institutions for higher education. This means that we will have to design, develop and test several seamless learning scenarios connected to these VR environments that use 3D and VR technologies to support the learning process of learners in and across contexts. Of fundamental importance is the subsequent testing and evaluation of learning scenarios at different institutions to learn about pitfalls and benefits of teaching with virtual worlds. Finally, we will communicate and disseminate the experience gained in the project to foster the digital transformation of education at institutions for higher education. We aim to publish at least one scientific paper and organise an international conference to optimize dissemination of products and results within the archaeological (and related fields) teaching communities.

Screenshot of the VR of the archaeological site of Troy, developed by the 4DRL in the context of the Virtual Past Places project for the course Lieux de Memoires.

Summarising, the projected outcomes will be: a collection of 3D datasets and VR environments openly available online ready for teaching at institutions for higher education; learning scenarios that support the learning process when using 3D and VR technologies; train the trainer manuals in four languages on how to apply the learning scenarios; evaluation of testing the learning scenarios to understand benefits and pitfalls of teaching with virtual technologies and scientific papers and conference proceedings for knowledge transfer.

Just started up..

In September, we had our project kick-off in Bonn, where the work packages were put into action. The most prominent activities have been to present and exchange learning approaches of our existing virtual reality initiatives, such as those developed in Bonn and at the 4DRL at UvA. In addition, we started recruiting teachers and students to participate in the development of the virtual environments and learning scenarios. In late January and February 2024, we will have workshops organized for teachers on developing Seamless Learning scenarios. Early April 2024 we will organize an international Summer (actually Spring) School at the Humanities Labs of the Faculty of Humanities at UvA to co-create learning scenarios with VR-experts, digital archaeologist, teaching experts and teachers and students of all participating institutes. Finally, we submitted a session proposal together with experts from the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona and the Nordic Centre of Heritage Learning and Creativity for the EAA in Rome, end of August 2024, to be able to present and discuss our ideas with a professional audience (session #657, Teaching and Learning Archaeology with Digital Tools).

We’ll keep you posted on any upcoming activities on our social media channels, and write up a new blogpost when we have some preliminary results!

14th century funerary sculpture from the tomb of Guy of Avesnes

The bisshop weeper from the tomb of Guy of Avesnes

Years: 2018-2020

Supervision: Tijm Lanjouw

Modelling and research: Tijm Lanjouw/Sanne Frequin

Commissioner: Sanne Frequin, art historian and phd candidate at UvA.

Project description:

Reconstruction of a sculpture found on the tomb of Guy of Avesnes, Bisshop of Utrecht, who died in 1317 AD. Today, this funurary monument is strongly affected by chemical and physical degradation processes. It was scanned in 2017 with the aim of preserving its current state and to form the basis for a digital reconstruction.

This digital restoration project focussed on one of the weepers, small tomb sculptures positioned around the monument whose role is to lament the dead bisshop. But medieaval sculpture like this also had a social and political message, and could be considered as a form of post-mortem propaganda. One weeper in special draws the attention as it appears to be unusual in its positioning in its niche. Frequin hypothised that this weeper might in fact be Gwijde himself. This project focussed on the reconstruction of this sculpture to validate this hypothesis. By close examination of the high resolution 3D scans, the few preserving original surface areas were determined. From here, by looking at the curvature of the surfaces, and by studying analogue cases of 14th century sculpture, the surfaces were restored. Finally, the reconstructed weeper was coloured based on pigment analysis and colours retrieved from other sculptures, to form the frontispiece of Frequin's PhD dissertation.


Photo of the weeper of the funerary monument in its current degraded state. Photo credit: Sanne Frequin
Determination of preserved original surface area on the weeper.
Restoration of the Bishop weeper in process

Gerrit Rietveld’s UNESCO Pressroom, 1958

Gerrit Rietveld's UNESCO Pressroom, 1958

Years: 2019

Supervision: Tijm Lanjouw

Modelling and research: Tijm Lanjouw / Santje Pander

Project description: Project in collaboration with Post-MA trainee (Conservation and Resaturation) Santje Pander. The lost press room of the UNESCO headquarters in Paris, designed by Rietveld, has been completely 3D reconstructed on the basis of existing historical (visual) sources. The model served to analyze the light and color effect, based on an extensive study of (the wear and tear of) colors in light. In a second phase of the project an app was developed to conclude the 3D model for a presentation of the press room to the public and UNESCO.


Virtual Tour of Rietsveld's UNESCO Pressroom (in Dutch)

Santje Pander, 2018. The UNESCO Press Room. Reconstructing the linoleum floor. Unpublished Master Thesis, University of Amsterdam.

Santje Pander, 2019. Linoleum in the UNESCO Press Room: 4D digital reconstruction. LINK 135 (2019) 35-36. (magazine only distributed among UNESCO employees)

Tijm Lanjouw & Santje Pander, forthcoming. 3D modelling and colour simulation as a tool to evaluate reconstruction possibilities of Rietveld’s UNESCO Press Room (1958), in: E. de Vos, E. Storgaard & Z. Böröcz (eds.). Living in Colour, conference, workshops, exhibition 3-5 december 2019.

Lanjouw, Tijm (2021): 4DRL Report Series 2 - The UNESCO Pressroom by Gerrit Rietveld: digital reconstruction for a study of colour use. University of Amsterdam / Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences. Journal contribution.


Pander/Lanjouw 2019. Conference paper. 3D modelling and colour simulation as a tool to evaluate reconstruction possibilities of Rietveld’s UNESCO Press Room (1958). Living in Colour conference, DOCOMOMO, Antwerp.

Pander/Lanjouw 2021. Conference paper. The UNESCO Press Room: Conserving Linoleum Surfaces. Architectural Finishes Research, Israel (virtual talk).

Model in progress, integration of design drawings in a Blender environment.
Final model with realistic materials and sunlight rendering.

Vlooienburg and Valkenburg historical reconstruction

Vlooienburg and Valkenburg historical reconstruction

Years: 2019 - 2020

Supervision: Jitte Waagen

Modelling and research: Tijm Lanjouw / Mikko Kriek / Mattia Lucca / Vasiliki Lagari / Jitte Waagen

Project description: Project commissioned by Prof. Dr. James Symonds (ACASA) and Prof. dr. Jerzy Gawronski (Monuments and Archeology, Municipality of Amsterdam / ACASA) of the NWO project Diaspora and Identity and the Jewish Historical Museum in Amsterdam. Various historical phases of Vlooienburg, Valkenburgstraat and the synagogues have been completely reconstructed in 3D, based on an extensive study of a wide variety of source material. This project is entering a second phase where it will serve as a case study in the PURE3D project (Dr. K. Papadopoulos, University of Maastricht) and will be delivered as an online academic publication.


Lanjouw, T., & Waagen, J. (2020). De 3D-reconstructie van Vlooienburg: hoe wordt een buurt gereconstrueerd. In H. Berg, & K. van Kempen (Eds.), Waterlooplein: De buurt binnenste buiten (pp. 112-123). Walburg.

Reconstructed areas visualised on the historical Berckenrode map, ca. 1625.
Screenshot from the VR, looking from the drawbridge unto the Valkenburgerstraat, early 17th c.
Photorealistic atmospheric render of the Lange Houtstraat at the crossroads with the Korte Houtstraat, looking at the Leprozengracht