From June, a full and detailed immersive experience is on offer in the Maison Taittinger chalk cellars. A careful digital reconstruction, offering not only an insight into the history of the cellars but also a chance to discover countless historical remnants.
The history of the Taittinger cellars in a virtual tour
Among the 3,000 chalk quarries lining the Reims subsoil, a large part of which lies beneath the hill of Saint-Nicaise, the Taittinger cellars contain many traces of history. “The Taittinger Crayères are included in the Champagne Cellars, Houses and Coteaux listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and we are the custodians of this history. The pandemic has led us to rethink the way we promote this heritage,” Vitalie Taittinger explains. As President of Champagne Taittinger, she has lent her voice to the virtual tour which guides visitors through an unprecedented visit of the cellars, with videos and scenic pictures.
“The cellar tour usually focuses on the production of champagne, here we offer a different kind of tour,” she adds. Thanks to the participation of historians and extensive research, we return to the time when Reims was called Durocortorum and we look back at the creation of these amazing underground chalk cathedrals. Through this investigative work, visitors will be able to rediscover the vestiges hidden behind the bottle racks and that render he events of History remarkably tangible. In a few minutes, we travel through almost 2000 years of history, looking at the creation of the chalk quarries, the Saint-Nicaise Abbey, traces of Gothic art and, finally, graffiti dating from the First World War.
“Creating a new dialogue”
In order to reflect this space, which is both a place of expression and a place of operations, Maison Taittinger decided to work with leading agency Sisso, which would handle the technical production of this immersive project. Created in 2010 and initially specialising in the development of virtual tours, the agency now uses its experience to promote national heritage. Camille Ferté, Associate Director of the agency, discusses the importance of the project’s ergonomics and the representation of the topics: “We often encounter technical constraints during filming: the darkness, the treatment of colour, the little space which hinders perspective. However, there is nothing that really presents an obstacle apart from selection of content. The virtual audience spends about five minutes per visit, so it’s a real challenge to condense the texts and content, considering the rich history of the Taittinger cellars.”
Virtual tours appeared about ten years ago. But current circumstances have seen a huge increase in them. The Sisso agency shares its experience on this phenomenon: “The craze stems in particular from a desire to sensationalize events. Virtual exhibitions makes it possible to become embedded in the moment, and through privileged interviews to guide the visitor further, to create a new dialogue. Moreover, there is high demand from the public without any cannibalisation effect between the real and the virtual, on the contrary, the two worlds complement each other.”
New content offered by the virtual tour
The project makes it possible to respond to a variety of issues. A temporary exhibition calls for a more literal approach. Following the example of the virtual tours developed for the Château de Versailles, it is a question of creating a setting; which will be limited in time, recreating exactly the exhibition’s route and discourse. In the case of an exclusively virtual exhibition, it is not a question of duplicating, but rather of telling a story, creating links and connections between scattered fragments. This is the goal as defined by Taittinger, whose objective is to highlight a heritage present in its cellars but rarely noted as the tours are primarily centred on the production of champagne, as the President of Maison Taittinger explained. The virtual tour is therefore a way of giving real substance to the historical aspect of the cellars.
Virtual tours, frequently used as a tourist and commercial prop, are thus not limited to putting on a display or tour. They provide privileged access to new content. Thanks to their wide accessibility on the internet, they meet the challenges of democratising culture. Heritage is now available on everyone’s screens, razing any social or geographical barriers. Through teaching and learning, cultural institutions have a new tool to deliver the keys to their treasures. In addition, tours are adapting, like the Louvre’s “My little gallery” project, dedicated specifically to artistic and cultural education, which evolves over the seasons. The user experience becomes a key element in cultural dissemination and a tour actually incites a visit to these culture sites.