Since opening its doors to the public in 1960, the Anne Frank House in Westerkerk, Amsterdam has become an important reminder of the horrific discrimination Frank and others faced during the WWII era. Ran by the non-profit Anne Frank Foundation dedicated to the preservation of Frank’s original hiding place and story, the 17th century canal house has attracted over 33 million visitors from around the globe in the past 50 years. With the launch of a timely VR experience, the Anne Frank House will soon be able to reach millions more.
Launched on Frank’s 89th birthday, the VR collaborative effort by the Anne Frank House, Force Field VR, and Oculus provides a unique 25-minute immersive tour of Frank’s secret hiding place, known as the Secret Annex. Although the real Secret Annex has remained empty since the Nazi discovery and removal of all furniture from within the space, the VR tour gives users a chance to explore Frank’s hiding space as it would have actually looked when she lived there from July 1942 to August 1944.
“Thanks to the meticulous historical research by the Anne Frank House, we have been able to faithfully recreate the situation in the Secret Annex during those years, resulting in a stunning and emotional tour,” said Force Field VR CEO Arthur Houtman.
Although the decision to recreate the Annex in VR was in some ways controversial, those involved view it as a positive tool to spread awareness of the past. “One of the most promising and important uses of VR is how it can help us see history and current events from a whole new perspective that is more immersive and powerful than any other medium,” said Oculus Developer Strategist Tina Tran.
Along with providing a unique tour of the Secret Annex that would be impossible in any other medium, the VR experience is also allowing the Anne Frank House to engage with audiences across the globe in an unprecedented manner. The experience is currently being installed at the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam to give visitors with mobility restrictions the opportunity to explore the Secret Annex, while the Anne Frank Zentrum in Berlin and the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect in New York will roll out their own versions of the experience later this year.
However, it won’t be necessary to travel to Amsterdam, New York, or Berlin to experience the Secret Annex as it was during Frank’s time. The experience is available for download now on the Oculus Store for Samsung Gear VR— completely free of charge.
Image Credit: Oculus / Anne Frank House