Ename 974 – Archaeology and historical story-telling for the local community

General information

Domain: Archaeology (early-medieval history)
Title: Ename 974
Launch: 1997
Country: Belgium
Website: http://www.pam-ov.be/ename/erfgoed

Project focus

Ename 974 has been a pioneering project in the reconstruction and communication of archaeological and historic remains with multimedia and virtual reality technologies for the benefit of the local community. Ename is a rural village situated in the Province of East-Flanders, about 60 km west of Brussels, on the eastern bank of the river Scheldt. Founded in 974, the early-medieval fortified trade settlement of Ename played an important military and economic role at the Scheldt, which was the border between the Ottonian empire and the French kingdom.

Archaeological and historical research carried out at Ename since 1982 revealed a unique record of the medieval world and its social classes, “those who prayed, those who fought, and those who worked” (Pletinckx 1999). Therefore it was decided to create an open-air archaeological park, to open a museum, and to make the 10th-century Saint Laurentius Church and the nearby Bos t’Ename forest preserve accessible to visitors. Combined with the physical development work, a series of novel ICT applications have been produced which present Ename’s history and heritage to the local people and visitors.



Ename 974 has been a multidisciplinary project which involved archaeologists, historians, educators and developers of IT applications. Furthermore a close collaboration between the project coordinators and the funding agencies helped to ensure the successful operation of the project. The leading role in the development of the ICT applications had the Ename Center for Public Archaeology and Heritage Presentation (founded 1998). As its name makes clear, the applications have been created primarily for providing knowledge about the archaeological site and the history of Ename to the local and wider interested public.

Financing / funding

The Ename 974 project has been sponsored mainly by the Province of East-Flanders, the city of Oudenaarde (of which Ename is a district), and the Flemish Heritage Institute (now a division of the Flemish Organization for Immovable Heritage, which is financed by the Flemish Government).

Content & IPR / licensing

A rich stock of archaeological and historical content has been gathered to present the history of the early-medieval trade settlement (975-1050), the area of the Benedictine abbey, which was founded in 1047 and dominated life in Ename to 1795, and the development of the village up to the modern Flemish community.

The content produced in the course of the project comprises narrative and descriptive texts, digitized visual material, 3D reconstructions of historical buildings and objects (e.g. the abbey, a bishop's crozier) and various scenes (e.g. praying monks).

The TimeScope kiosk system in the garden of the Provincial Archaeological Museum presents content along historical and spatial storylines as well as oral history interviews with seven local people. For example, a resident tells about his experiences in World War II and how it affected the village, and the curator of the nature reserve Bos t’Ename describes the natural environment in medieval times and how the people used the land. This content helps create a strong connection between the cultural history of the village and its contemporary identity.

Most content is embedded in the presentation systems (see below), but quite some has also been disseminated to visitors on carrier media such as CD-ROMs. However, the copyrights remain with the project, the Flemish Heritage Institute or individual producers.

Technologies used / innovative features

In the Ename 974 project several ICT applications have been designed and realized to help local people and visitors understand and experience the past as it has been revealed through archaeological and historical research. The applications comprise multimedia and virtual reality applications, on-site kiosk systems and in-door museum installations, each as a component of the overall heritage presentation programme. The applications have been designed with great attention to scholarly accuracy (e.g. 3D reconstructions of the archaeological site) as well as to capture the interest of visitors.

Beside the TimeScope system mentioned above, there are on-site presentation systems at the archaeological park (e.g. the TimeFrame 3D virtual reality presentation of the abbey with additional information about the site), and multimedia installations in the museum and the Saint Laurentius church in Ename. This early Romanesque church remained almost unchanged since the year 1000 and was made accessible following the completion of interior excavation and restoration works.

Target users

The main user groups of the project results are the local and regional community, e.g. families and school classes, and domestic and international tourists who are visiting East-Flanders.

Lessons learned

Cooperation: Ename 974 has been a unique multidisciplinary project involving experts from several domains, including archaeology and history, museums and archives, education, and information technology. Furthermore the funding agencies played an important role in bringing the archaeological and historic remains to life again as well as sustaining the operation of the outcomes.

Content: The multitude of archaeological and historical content has been presented with different applications which link it up with the village and region, highlighting its cultural identity and historical traces that are still visible today. Overall the interactive story-telling aimed at making the remains readable for the public merits to be highlighted.

Technologies used / innovative features: Ename 974 has been a pioneering project in the use of multimedia and virtual reality technologies for presenting insights of archaeological and historical research to the local community and visitors. All heritage institutions and communities, but especially small ones need solutions that are cost-effective, sustainable and capable of addressing different informational needs of users. The solutions created by Ename 974 proved to be remarkably sustainable, although they had to be upgraded and reworked over time.

Sources and links