After four months working for the company, there's lots of exciting memories to look back on!

When I initially applied for the intern position at Zubr, I was hoping to find some experience in the heritage sector during the summer before my third year of university. As a dreamy and rather impractical English Literature student who was suddenly confronted by the idea of becoming a teacher, it dawned on me that a class of fourteen year olds would eat me alive. Going back to the drawing board, I wondered if I could nurture my love for both literature and history in my future career. Stumbling across the Zubr vacancy was the best thing that could’ve happened to me; the company immediately struck me as fresh and inventive, with the Curio sub-brand’s particular focus on heritage and museums being exactly what I was dreaming of.

Since working at Zubr, I’ve been involved in some amazing projects. From working on the Curio website to attending events such as the SPARKies 2023 tech awards and the SS Great Britain’s 180th anniversary celebration, it’s been great fun both in and outside the office.

At first, I was intimidated by the idea of working for a technology based company, though I was reassured that no one expected me to be a VR pro.

During the interview process, we discussed what the role of admin assistant would entail and what I hoped to gain from the internship. At first, I was intimidated by the idea of working for a technology based company, though I was reassured that no one expected me to be a VR whiz – in fact, I didn’t need any tech experience at all! This was music to my ears, considering the main draw for me was Curio’s collaboration with various heritage experts, as well as the more general experience of working in a professional office environment. That’s not to say I wasn’t excited by the promise of seeing XR brought to life – I’d been intrigued by many of Zubr’s past projects, particularly the colourful Minny Stynker Imaginary Friend AR.

Looking back, it was natural to feel a little nervous on my first day, especially given my technophobia; I pictured embarrassing myself by putting a VR headset on upside down or being unable to log into my new email account. My anxiety was soon quelled, however; after meeting everyone in the office, I felt instantly reassured by their warm welcome. I was given all the support I needed to settle in right away – and most importantly, was pointed towards the biscuit tin.

Over the past four months, I’ve not only felt my confidence bloom but had the opportunity to work alongside some very talented people on some amazing projects. Many hours have been spent researching particularly niche areas of local history in order to aid Zubr’s developers, allowing them to jump right into their digital interpretations. I have enjoyed this aspect of the internship immensely, not only filling a summer devoid of the literature research I adore, but also transforming me into a more than adequate pub quiz partner.

Getting stuck into Curio's immersive VR projects

Whilst I’ve certainly found my flair for research, one of the most standout projects I’ve been involved with so far is Zubr’s second project with TiDE and Derry’s Tower Museum. Entitled ‘Island City: an Entire History of Derry’, this immersive VR experience centres around a large map of Derry, which transforms as you spin the ‘wheel of time’ and explore each era with various interactive tools. The nautical theme immediately spoke to me, as a Bristolian fascinated by our city’s problematic merchant past – when asked to assist in writing a narrative for the experience, I felt well-equipped to encapsulate the voice of a mariner… though I left the Irish accents up to my colleagues.

Time travel VR for museums

Having written various pieces during my time at university, including previous script writing experience, I was excited to finally put these skills to use in a professional capacity.

However, this was a unique penmanship experience for me; working collaboratively with a couple of my colleagues and various experts, this was the first time I’d written a narrative with the help of others. Not only did this entail the usual writing challenges, such as finding an authentic voice for our character, ensuring all historical details were properly fact checked, working to word count limitations and so on, but also making sure our various ideas of how our narrator should sound were cohesive. Working around each others’ edits in order to produce an informative, yet entertaining narrative felt like an entirely new type of challenge for me. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and even better, the outcome was reassuring; I’d have no qualms about contributing to group writing projects in future.

Being involved in this project has not only indulged my penchant for creative writing, but also helped me understand Zubr’s work more deeply. Up until this point, seemingly obvious things, such as the difference between AR and VR, had eluded me. Now, I can see how much my understanding has evolved, not just regarding the basics but also what Zubr as a company has to offer. From breathtaking VR scenes to narrative voice overs, designs for physical displays to media content, the ‘Island City’ project was the first time I got to see just how much Zubr can deliver.

As my own role began to develop from admin assistant to researcher, I was also tasked with sourcing some potential 3D assets for the project. This meant delving into Derry’s rich history, which left me feeling much more confident in my knowledge of Derry’s evolving landscape before I began scriptwriting… or at least as confident as you can be when you’ve never set foot in the city itself, only its digital representation!

Ultimately, the highlight of working on this particular project for me was hearing the final recording of the narrative, performed by a suitably sea faring accent. Hearing the words I had typed, read aloud and brought to life, I felt the magic of the virtual experience instantly. From an idea on a page to an entirely fabricated landscape, I was enchanted by the omnipotent character we had created. This experience has not only reignited my passion for history, but also helped me realise that my future career aspirations are not restricted to the stereotypes that surround an English Literature degree.

Just like the movies... sort of!

When considering an internship, my only idea of it was the kinds of interns you see in American movies – I’m thinking Dylan O’Brien in the aptly named The Internship (2013), or perhaps more terrifyingly Anne Hathaway in The Devil Wears Prada (2006). There were some doubts in my mind as to how useful I could be as a bookworm with little to no experience of VR technology. Since joining, I no longer doubt my value, a lot of which I owe to my warm welcome and how much the Zubr team has taught me. I have come to realise that my lack of VR experience is in fact one of the most unique qualities I bring to the table; for me, it is much easier to imagine a visitor’s perspective, or to spot where curators might find difficulties in managing our technology.

If you had told me a year ago that I would be a member of Zubr, working on various digital projects for museums and heritage sites, I never would have believed I’d have the courage to go for such an opportunity. Whatever possessed me to apply, I feel so grateful to work for a company which excites me – and more importantly, to work alongside such a kind and inspiring work force. If you’re a fellow student considering an internship opportunity, my advice would be go for it! Maybe, if you’re lucky, you’ll find an opportunity as fun as this one.

Zubr developer
Zubr team at SPARKies tech awards Bath 2023