Destination development – Iron Games Ulefoss

Group 1: Sahal Mohammed Abdulle, Raissa-Ingunn Volden, Barabara Rebeca Ajtujal. Photo: Elisabeth Kastet Brodal.

Written by: Rebeca Ajtujal, Sahal Mohammed Abdulle , Raissa-Ingunn Volden Destination development group 1, autumn 2019, University of South-Eastern Norway, campus Bø.

Iron Games Ulefoss

When you visit Ulefoss, its industrial soul, history, infrastructure and architecture stand out. The iron foundry was founded in 1657. At the end of the 17th century, the iron foundry was Norway’s largest producer of different types of iron. This activity is part of the cultural heritage and it is important to value it, keep it and pass it on to the future generation in order to conserve it.

We felt the iron factory and the history around it were at the core of Ulefoss and how it came to be what it is today. At Øvre Verket you will get a sense of how people lived from the first half of the nineteenth century after the factory entered the Cappelen family’s possessions. Additionally, you will get to see some of the objects produced in the iron factory, which is situated only a few minutes’ walk away from Øvre Verket. Given the importance it has in Ulefoss it could be much more exploited.

The worker’s homes at Øvre Verket. Photo: Rebeca Ajtujal

Today the main production of the iron factory is manhole covers. Of all the other products they produced over the years, only a few beautiful oven models from the early years of the factory are still produced in a limited number. Unfortunately, the iron factory is not open to visitors for security reasons.

Our idea is to allow people to “visit” the factory nonetheless using VR and be able to see how it works in a far more engaging and interesting way than traditional short films or just guides talking. The idea is to show the process of iron forging now with the current techniques and technology, and thereafter show how it would have been done when the factory was created, so people can see the evolution. The VR would naturally be available both in English and Norwegian, and maybe in other languages depending on where the majority of visitors come from.

Iron games escape room

The industrial vibe and the presence of the iron factory and objects are great ingredients for escape rooms, and as Ulefoss doesn’t have an escape room yet, we think this would also work great in combination with the VR. The museum (Øvre Verket) is a good place for establishing this for economic reasons (if one or several of the existing houses can be used rather than having to build a new building,) but also because it is situated in vicinity of the actual iron forgery (2-3 minutes’ walk) making it more real for tourists. In addition, the museum contains real ancient objects from the forgery, and we think that after learning and seeing the process through VR it is important to have something tangible to look at and the opportunity to buy some minor objects as souvenirs. The escape room could be situated in one of the bigger buildings with several rooms if we want a longer and more complex escape story. In terms of the content it should build on the formation of iron, its chemical properties and other characteristics such as its role in the human body. It will also address how iron has been used from the iron age until today and how it has been produced throughout the different ages including how it is done today in Ulefoss Jernverk.

The manhole covers from Ulefoss can be found all over the world. Photo: Rebeca Ajtujal

Marketing

From a marketing perspective, package deals should be proposed for people travelling with the canal boat (boat, VR, escape room, visit of the rest of the museum) and also for those travelling by other means. For example, packages including bus tickets (from Bø, Skien…) to Ulefoss with the VR, escape room and museum. This would be especially relevant for students. We also think they should have package deals with and without the escape rooms, since the latter will probably not be as relevant for older tourists or tourists who have a short amount of time to visit Ulefoss.

In order to promote the destination in a more cost-efficient way, the municipality or Telemark museum could propose internships to marketing and Tourism students. Special deals could be offered to high schools and universities who promote Ulefoss on their webpages (English and Norwegian). This would require the collaboration of the municipality, the factory owner, the county, the bus company (Telemarkekspressen), the students who would be interested in promoting these attractions in exchange for internships and the University’s involved.

One of the challenges Ulefoss faces in the tourism sector is its lack of visitors in the low season. Both the escape room and the VR would attract people throughout the whole year. Our main target groups would be university students in the area. Companies and other organisations could be interested in using the escape room for team building, while middle school classes from both Midt-Telemark, Nome and Grenland could incorporate the Museum with the VR as part of their education program in history.

After visiting Øvre Verket, the VR or the escape room it would be good to have a sales point where people can buy small traditional objects such as miniature manhole covers, jewellery made with iron, mini “Troll-biler” and other traditional objects that are easy to transport. These souvenirs could also be sold on the Telemarkanal boats.

One of the challenges in making this project possible is obtaining the permission from the iron factory owners to enter the factory in order to film and make the VR actually possible. Although this may be complicated, we think it is in their interest as well given that we would be promoting their factory, its brand name and its products to a broad public.

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