The Great Synagogue of Vilnius in VR

The virtual tour inside and outside the synagogue demolished in the middle of 20th century. Recreated according to historical facts and visual material, this demonstrates the future of museums, galleries, history lessons and the whole education system.

The idea of the project was to recreate an important Jewish architectural figure that acted as the hearth of Jewish culture in Northern Europe for a couple of centuries. Using Virtual Reality, one can go on a tour outside and inside the Great Synagogue of Vilnius which was destroyed in 1957.

Target audience: history teachers and professors, museums, religious communities.

The project was initiated by a non-profit organisation Litvak World together with our company in order to commemorate the Jewish relics left in Vilnius, Lithuania. It was also a most modern mean of showing the importance of what was once called the Northern Jerusalem by using Virtual Reality solutions.

Simulator is used in museums both, modern and historical ones. Implemented as visual experiences into history classes at various private as well as public schools and universities across Lithuania. It is also used for visualisation purposes at international conferences by Vilnius Jewish community members.

Development time: 2 months
Engine: Unity
Platform: PC + HTC Vive, Oculus
Setting: Historical (XX century)
Visual style: realism
Language: multi (ENG/RU/LT)
Age: 6+
Stage: demo

Gathering historical facts

The project started by a close collaboration between our VR project managers and historians. In order to recreate the building accurately, a through-out research was done to gather all the available historical material. This went from live meetings with various professors in Lithuania and Israel in fields of history, religion and Jewish culture. After the precise timeframe that needed to be recreated was specified, particular content started to be gathered. We have recorded original religious songs that were sang at that place, collected visual and textual material from original resources including exterior and interior pictures with short descriptions. We have visited a couple of Jewish museums and interviewed its employees in order to get a better understanding of the life style at the times. We have also consulted with geologists and architects in order to calculate the most precise possible measurements of specific parts of the whole settlement.

This process, as always, required exceptional accuracy and time management until a detailed VR reconstruction plan was ready to be utilized.

Recreating synagogue in virtual reality

Recreation of the Great Synagogue of Vilnius started with modeling of all the visual objects that can be seen in the simulator according to the comments of the best historians in the sphere of Jewish history in Vilnius. After the development team had brought the environment into Virtual Reality and specific mechanics had been created, quality assurance was done. When all of this was ready, it was time to step back into glorious period of Vilnius Jewish history and open The Great Synagogue of Vilnius for the public for once more.  When all of this was ready, it was time to step back into glorious period of Vilnius Jewish history and open The Great Synagogue of Vilnius for the public for once more.

Better than reality

This project went through numerous exhibitions in Lithuania and outside its borders with getting many people, especially Jewish communities, amazed with the result even at this stage of demo. We are glad that we succeeded in showing the possibilities of VR to various organizations, museums and individuals. Therefore the project has been invited for a continuous exhibition at Vilnius TELIA “NotMuseum” and the biggest event of Games and technology in Baltic region – “GameOn”. People started to actively follow the project as they recognized other bonuses of the content we made. It was a prime time new at the National Television of Lithuania with demonstrating the aspect of seeing the capital of the country as it looked 70 years ago and went through couple of other TV shows. As Virtual Reality have given us the chance to realise any historical content in a most realistic way possible to this day, we have received a vast amount of positive comments from people who experienced our simulator. We were proud to showcase the Great Synagogue to people who have visited it on sight many years ago. Their ultimately positive words felt truly rewarding and continue to inspire us to this day.