Bygone Times in Real Time

AI, Controller, Installation, Social Media
Reviving Digitized Heritage

How can archival material from multiple sources be combined with social media content to create a coherent narrative in a museum exhibition?

On the occasion of the Fête des Vignerons that took place in Vevey in 2019, the EPFL+ECAL Lab joined forces with the Swiss Camera Museum, the Archives of the RTS Swiss broadcasting corporation, and the Confrérie des Vignerons to offer an unparalleled exploration of the world of images linked to the festival.

Bygone Times in Real Time

The Fête des Vignerons is a unique festival that takes place in the town of Vevey on the shores of Lac Léman. Celebrating the region’s rich wine culture, the event has a history dating back to 1797. Yet taking place only every 20 years, the festival becomes an icon of its era and a landmark in the town’s memory.

With a digital archive of images, videos and documents spanning over 200 years, a consortium got together to find out how to bring this history to life for the 2019 edition. What also could AI bring to this experience and how could it be linked to the contemporary experience of the festival?

Bygone Times in Real Time

As you enter the exhibition space, the installation challenges certainties. The images found on social networks take on a material dimension.

Placed on an illuminated plate, these cards trigger a collection of archival images on an immersive screen allowing visitors to explore the history of the festival from today, back to its origins in 1797.

The selection of documents presented from different sources is based on AI algorithms that, instead of restricting the results to users’ expectations, foster connections between past and present. What the machine recognises, and how they are associated, are revealed through graphic techniques in order to make the workings of the algorithm transparent to visitors.

While the installation demonstrates how to enhance the cultural wealth tucked away in huge man-made databases, the research results are also part of a broader project exploring our perception and trust in AI.

Bygone Times in Real Time

The installation Bygone Times in Real Time was revealed to public during Fête des Vignerons in Summer 2019, and at Museum für Gestaltung in Zürich from September 20, 2019, to March 8, 2020, in the framework of the exhibition “Knowledge in Images – Information Design Today”.


Nicolas Henchoz

Project Management & Art Direction

Lara Défayes

Research Assistant

Hélène Portier 

Interaction Design

Hélène Portier in cooperation with Lara Défayes

Engineering lead

Delphine Ribes

Software Engineering

Yves Kalberer

Hardware & Firmware Engineering

Dr Cédric Duchêne


Matthieu Girel

UX Psychology

Dr Andreas Sonderegger 

Photography Credits

© EPFL+ECAL Lab / Daniela & Tonatiuh

On demand only