Case study Château de Fougères (Brittany, FRANCE)*

Introduction:

The medieval castle of Fougères is one of the many fortresses located on the former border area between France and Brittany, when the latter was still independent. In the Middle Ages, the castle of Fougères, together with other fortresses, made up this Breton line of protection, also known as the “Marches de Bretagne”.

This castle is located in the heart of the town of Fougères and is not the only vestige of the Middle Ages. This is why Fougères has been labelled by the Ministry of Culture as a “Town of Art and History” since 1985. The Château de Fougères claims to be the “largest medieval fortress in Europe in this state of preservation”[1] (see photo below).

Walls of the Château de Fougères with view the town in the background.

[1] Château de Fougères website: www.chateau-fougères.com

From a tourist point of view, visiting the Château de Fougères lasts about an hour and a half, and attracts more than 100,000 visitors every year. Although a large part of the visit is outdoors, staged or scenographic elements also animate certain areas of the towers.
In a context of heritage enhancement [2], the town of Fougères took the opportunity to join the European VISTA-AR project to rethink and revitalise its castle tour using digital mediation tools, almost 10 years after the installation of the current scenography.

[2]  Within the framework of its label “City of Art and History”, the town of Fougères is considering the creation of a Centre for the Interpretation of Architecture and Heritage (CIAP).

The innovation process of the Château de Fougères Business Model is interesting because it combines several features that may echo other heritage sites, particularly those located in France.
The castle is protected: it is classified as a “Historic Monument” by the French State (Ministry of Culture / Regional Directorate of Cultural Affairs).
– Similarly, the town of Fougères benefits from the label “Town of Art and History” and as such fulfils a public service mission of the enhancement and animation of heritage. It is thus endowed with specific features in heritage mediation. This has implications for digital innovation, which must respect protected heritage elements.
– The castle is managed by the Commune of Fougères as part of its “Heritage and Tourism” service. The functioning of the commune, its resources and political choices have an impact on the innovation process at the castle. Moreover, this constrains the available accounting data and only provides a global knowledge of the value creation processes.
– The castle has both large outdoor spaces and cramped indoor spaces, which also has implications for digital innovation and business model opportunities.

PHASE 1: Diagnosis of the Château de Fougères

Château de Fougères’ clientele and the services dedicated to them

The identification of the château’s clientele was based on a participatory methodology. After collecting and analysing existing documentation (activity reports, annual reports, etc.) in a visitor data repository (see examples in the appendices), and interviewing the various parties involved in the enhancement of the Château de Fougères (heritage department manager, activity manager, customer relations manager, guides, elected representatives, tourist office, etc.), a meeting with the heritage department was organised to present the diagnosis. The aim was to validate this diagnosis collectively, before subsequently reassessing the site’s prospects for development (see PHASE 2 – DESIGN OF INNOVATION).

The following table provides an analytical overview of the main elements that characterise this first dimension of the business model wheel: the target clientele and the corresponding value propositions and services.

Source: “Heritage and Tourism” Department of the Commune of Fougères, 2018 data (before digital innovation)

What is (are) the way(s) to tell the heritage story?

The main message conveyed to visitors by the scenography of the Château de Fougères is about the Marches de Bretagne and the place that this castle holds there. It strongly determines the majority of the visit routes, especially those for the general public. For more specific audiences, e.g., school groups or groups on organised trips, the promotion of the site can be adapted to schoolteachers’ requests, or according to the affinities of groups on a trip (e.g., an association of enthusiasts of medieval architecture).

The aim at this stage is to deconstruct the build visitor route through the site messages conveyed to visitors, indicating how they participate in the storytelling of the site. The diagram below illustrates the standard tour route, aimed at the general public, on which we will focus here.


Source: English language guide to the Château de Fougères.

For each point of interest identified, the site content must be described. An extract of the tour route for individual visitors with an audio guide is shown here.

Mediation tools

At the Château de Fougères, 6 mediation tools allow visitors to discover the site’s heritage. Some are based on technologies and others are not. For each one, it is necessary to characterise the communicated heritage content in order to connect with storytelling (cf. above), the media enabling this communication, the way the communication is triggered, and the location of the points of interest concerned.

The table below shows the mediation tools used for the different tours of the castle:

Organisation of the site

The organisation of the Château de Fougères is now broken down using the blueprint tool. The necessary actions on the part of both visitors and staff (in contact or behind the scenes) are traced for each point of interest. This therefore makes it possible to detail the resources needed for the site to function. More precisely, this blueprint corresponds to the functioning of the site in relation to the itinerary of free visits or visits with audio guides.

The table below shows an extract of tour route for individual visitors with an audio guide, and a step-by-step list of the actions to be carried out to ensure that the visit runs smoothly. It also highlights the resources needed to carry out these actions, which must be anticipated.

Overall in terms of human resources, the Château de Fougères is equipped with:

  • 1 person in charge of the “Heritage and Tourism” department
  • 1 heritage facilitator
  • 2 permanent guides
  • 7 temporary guide lecturers
  • 1.5 technical staff
  • 1 person in charge of customer relations
  • 2 people at reception (high season)
  • 2 people at the audio guides (high season)

Economic Benefits

The aim of this part is to diagnose the current structure of the income of Château de Fougères according to the different target customers. This case study is interesting because it shows that the economic value is not always the one primarily sought after according to the target considered. The turnover generated by visits and purchases in the general public shop is obviously closely monitored.

But it should not be forgotten that this financial impact is subordinate to other spin-offs. For example, the castle is registered on the list of “Historic Monuments” of France; and the labelling of Fougères as a “Town of Art and History”, a strong element of the town’s attractiveness for tourists and tour operators, stems from the quality of the communication developed for schoolchildren and groups on organised trips.

In the end, the main performance indicator, the one that encompasses all the values sought, remains the number of annual visitors from the point of view of decision makers. The basic economic logic of the castle was to work on the attractiveness of the site through a quality proposition at reduced cost (relative to comparable sites), and for the greatest number of visitors. An implicit spin-off, although very difficult to measure, was that the flow of visitors would have positive repercussions for the town as a whole (shops, restaurants, other heritage sites).

Source: “Heritage and Tourism” Department of the Commune of Fougères, 2018 data.
(Before digital innovation)

[3] During the diagnosis, the town’s elected representatives emphasised the strong attachment of the inhabitants to the castle, which is an emblem of the town.

PHASE 2: Designing innovation at the Château de Fougères

Targets and Value Proposals

The objective here is generally to identify a target audience by digital experimentation and then attribute a value proposition to it. The aim is to highlight how the digital experience can improve/favour this value proposition.

[4] The Château de Fougères had already developed the site’s accessibility for this type of public, although it is not strictly a target in the sense of the Business Model analysis.

In the case of Fougères, the reflection focused on the general public and the classic route with audioguide and scenography. The desire was to insert new mediation tools (AR/RV), to renew and enrich this route on a technological and storytelling level. We will therefore focus on the devices aimed at the general public, which were included in the classic route. On the one hand, the tablet, which, by replacing the audio guides, should also make it possible to offer several digital content features at different points along the visitor route. On the other hand, we will mention the immersive room, which was conceived as a new point of interest along the route.

Heritage interpretation / Storytelling

Storyboard

The first step was the production of a storyboard for each digital experience by the heritage communication service. The aim was to identify the points of interest associated with the new features, and to explain the content of the message to be conveyed to visitors, and how to get it across.

The storyboard was a way for the mediator to bring a vision to life. He made sketches of the different views proposed to the visitors for each digital mediation tool.

Here are extracts from the storyboard of the augmented reality view of the castle at different times: “The Château de Fougères through the ages”:

1 Excerpts from the storyboard of the castle through the ages

In the case of the immersive room system, a storyboard was also built jointly between the person in charge of castle communication and the partner in charge of the digital modulation of the battle scene. This storyboard provided the opportunity to build a scenario, the corresponding scenes and shots, and to agree on the historical elements to be taken into account in the making of the video.

Extract from the storyboard of the immersive room:

Scenario validation

It is important to underline, for these two storyboards, that it was not a question of appealing to pure creativity on the part of the actors of communication. Indeed, for the new devices envisaged at the Château de Fougères, the value proposition was to make visible parts that had been destroyed or were inaccessible via virtual and augmented reality technologies. However, this approach had to be carried out with a minimum guarantee of historical plausibility. Indeed, in the case of Fougères, the castle is classified as a “Historic Monument” and the town has the label “Town of Art and History”. This requires a scientifically validated numerical interpretation of the site.

For this reason, a scientific committee of experts in medieval history and architecture has been set up to provide guidance to the teams responsible for producing the digital content and gradually giving their approval to their progress. This committee has given its opinion on the proposed drawings on several occasions, requesting corrections where necessary. Overall, this scientific approval process took about a year.

Implications for the overall route

Furthermore, as the castle was undertaking a renewal of its route, it should also be emphasised that it was not only a question of designing storyboards for each new point of interest, but also of reconfiguring the entire visitor route integrating these different tools. It was therefore necessary to add these tools to the points of interest concerned, or even to modify other points of interest in order to ensure the coherence of the whole.

At the Château de Fougères, digital innovation was the occasion for a global redesign of the route by modifying the main message. It is no longer centred on the Marches de Bretagne but on the history of the castle, the reasons for its location, and its architectural evolution. This means, among other things, that the signs and the objects to be handled (helmet and locket book) are destined to be modified, replaced, or removed.

The image below illustrates the new digital route for tablet, showing the location of points of interest in the Castle.

Table of Points of Interest for the new digital route (with tablet)

Mediation Tools

The Château de Fougères has chosen to integrate the use of digital tablets into its tour itinerary. These tablets provide access to various mediation technologies:

  • A video illustrating the defence system of the advance
  • An augmented view of the seigneurial dwelling from its remains
  • A view of the construction of the castle throughout the ages from an augmented reality view from a stone model

2 Le château à travers les âges

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • In addition, as part of the same tour, an immersive device is offered to the visitor:An immersive room in which the visitor can watch a video of a battle taking place in Fougères.

3 Excerpt from the video illustrating the defense of the advance

 

 

Only the digital mediation tools of this new route for the public are described here. However, there are plans to completely overhaul the route, which means that the old mediation tools (cf. phase 1) such as panels, helms, locket books, projections, and soundtracks will be modified, replaced or removed.

Among the list of questions to ask oneself in order to choose the right mediation tools (cf. Phase 2 – MEDIATION TOOLS), the Château de Fougères team asked itself the following questions:
The characteristics of the site to be enhanced: the objective being to offer visitors access to destroyed spaces, 3D modelling, and the triggering of Augmented Reality views have been favoured.
Desired use: since families (adults with children) are important to the Château, especially during the summer season, use of the tablet should be collective, in small groups of 4-5 people, in order to make this tool a support for exchange between the members of the group and not for individual use.
Environment in which the tool is used: The tour route is both indoors and outdoors and is therefore subject to strong variations in brightness. The stairs are steep and high, which increases the risk of the tool falling. These aspects were therefore taken into account in the choice of the model of the “tablet” interface, which is solid, adapted to variations in luminosity, and of the correct size for collective use. The tablet was favoured over the smartphone because of the difficulty of access to wifi in the castle due to the thickness of the walls.

4 The stately manor

 

5 Plan of the projected layout of the immersive room

 

6 Video excerpt of the battle projected in the immersive room

Organisation of the site

The aim is now to highlight the new activities that result from the redesign of the course and the arrival of digital mediation tools. These activities are marked in blue and they refer to the mobilisation of new resources that must also be characterised. Since the path is undergoing a general reassessment, some activities are also disappearing (those related to the audio guides, for example). Therefore, this frees up resources that can be used for new activities.

Benefits

The Château de Fougères initially chose to equip itself with a tablet, which it will make available to its public at no extra cost. In other words, for visitors, the use of the tablets is included in the entrance fee to the château. The château nevertheless recommends shared use of this tool when visitors come in small groups, particularly in the case of a family, so that they do not have to invest in the purchase and maintenance of a large number of tablets. This will help to limit costs.

Since the new mediation tool is not monetised as such (it is included in the price of the admission ticket, which has not changed as a result of the innovations introduced), the aim of the Château de Fougères was not primarily to make a direct profit. The decision makers chose to remain within the same economic logic as that which was already theirs.

Thus, the objectives were rather to attract a greater number of visitors to the castle with a renewed route benefiting from a modern image. Attracting more tourists to the castle also means attracting more tourists to the town and its surroundings, and therefore to its other heritage, leisure, and shopping facilities. Indirect economic spin-offs are expected from the boost to the attractiveness of the castle provided by the new route.

 

*Case study Château de Fougères (Brittany, FRANCE)
This is a provisional version V2. As such, some content may not be up to date with final arrangements of the VISTA AR project.
A final V3 fully updated version will be delivered at the end of the project.