From Disney comic books starring Scrooge McDuck to never-ending scenes from India’s most expensive TV series, the British Library’s latest exhibition is eclectic to say the least.
As a tribute to the legacy of Alexander the Great, this exhibition is about storytelling as it is a person, finally showing how technology can bring these legends to life.
Born in Macedonia in 356 BC, Alexander actually traveled as far as Northwest India, where his vast empire from Greece to Egypt recorded paintings, tablets and scriptures in any of the greatest museums in the world Zhongdu is commonplace.
However, his legend was unaware of such geographic restrictions. Whether the son of the serpent wizard (Nectanebo, not Voldemort) or the brave warrior staring at the dragon, the George-style mythology starring Alexander begins in his lifetime and has survived in the years since.
What binds these adventures together is the Ebstorf map. First made in Germany around 1300, it was the largest world map from the Middle Ages until it was destroyed during World War II.
It has more than 2,000 entries on more than 30 pieces of parchment, hundreds of which are illustrated, including more than a dozen works explicitly related to Alexander—including some of his fictional adventures.
Students at visual effects school Escape Studios, a producer of young talent who have worked on films including Star Wars and games like Assassin’s Creed, have created a new interactive version for the library.
Displaying a sequence similar to the title sequence in Game of Thrones, it presents landmarks and milestones in Alexander’s real and imagined life, just like the original map, but now in 3D.
The library’s curator of digital content exhibitions, Yrja Thorsdottir, describes it as “a mixture of real places, physical locations and pure fantasy”.
She told Sky News that the new map showed how technology could allow curators to “bring what was lost to life”.
“Technology allows us to retrieve lost history”
Perhaps the most striking examples are saved for last.
After Alexander’s death at age 32, the probable cause remains divided among historians, Alexander’s body was transported from Babylon to Egypt and placed in a long-lost mausoleum in the city of Alexandria.
The exhibition – not afraid to jump from ancient manuscripts to film or even animation – culminates in a detailed reconstruction of the tomb of the video game Assassin’s Creed origins, magnified and projected onto a wall.
“We’ve lost the graves, we’ve lost the maps, and technology allows us to sort them or bring them back,” Ms Thorsdottir said.
Since Assassin’s Creed debuted, its rendition of a great city in history has been a calling card, going back to what now feels very old in 2007.
From Constantinople to Athens, every choice requires a world larger than ever—but more detailed.
“Our colleagues who made the first Assassin’s Creed[Holy Land during the Crusades]did a fantastic job and paved the way for its development,” said Thierry Noel, developer Ubisoft’s in-house historian ( Thierry Noel) told Sky News.
“But as it became such a well-known franchise, it became clear that there was going to be a growing need to rebuild the bigger world, to be more accurate, to find more information, and that’s how the team I led was born.”
“It’s about creating an experience”
Released in 2017 and filmed in Egypt between 49 and 43 BC, Origins is the first to benefit from Mr. Noel’s team, who scour the world’s museums, libraries and historical sites to bring them digitally into the Life.
“We used everything we could imagine what the grave could be like,” he said.
Research like this led to the collaboration with the library, as his team drew inspiration from a previous Anglo-Saxon art exhibition, which featured a Viking era, during the development of 2020’s Assassin’s Creed Valhalla. of the United Kingdom in the background.
For some players, such a venue might just act as a sandbox for brutal murder. The idea of such a game being used in an institution like the British Library might sound like many stories about Alexander – like fantasy.
But for the people behind the show, they provided storytelling opportunities that will always be there.
“It’s about engaging people in a different way,” says print series lead Adrian Edwards.
“One element of an exhibition like this is drama, it’s about creating an experience.
“The level of detail they’re putting in now to visualize these places from history, it gives you a real sense of what it might have been like.”
Alexander the Great: The Making of Myths is open at the British Library until 19 February 2023.