Is it possible that 2022 could be the year that Virtual Reality becomes mainstream? Following the release of the Oculus Quest 2 VR headset, many people are forecasting this. As bored consumers tried to escape the dullness of Covid-19 lockdowns, this reached five times predicted pre-orders.
In 2020, museums will shift their focus to digital, but many have been investing in virtual reality for some years with great results.
Consider the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia. In 2016, they released several Virtual Reality experiences. Visitors can utilize virtual reality to go to the ocean’s depths, the vast reaches of space, and even inside the human body. People can be thoroughly engaged in an interactive adventure thanks to this technology. Franklin says these exhibits will change visitors’ perspectives on the world.
What Does VR Mean For Museums?
Virtual reality is a great way for museums to bring their artifacts to life. It provides a unique experience — total immersion in an exhibit. Many museums all over the world are already taking advantage of its possibilities.
The subject may appear intimidating. It’s easy to become perplexed by technical jargon and new technology. However, the principle is not overly complicated. Virtual reality immerses the user in an experience.
It might be interactive or in a 360-degree video format. Virtual reality is being used to produce museum tours, and interactive displays and bring sceneries to life. It can assist curators in placing artifacts in their proper setting and demonstrating their genuine scale.
Here are a few fantastic examples of museums that have adopted virtual reality. These institutions have employed technology to give their collections a new dimension.
Curious Alice, an exhibition exploring the origins, adaptations, and reinventions, premiered in the summer of 2021 at London’s V&A. Visitors could immerse themselves in a whimsical virtual reality experience alongside exhibits of illustrations, videos, posters, manuscripts, and costumes.
As part of its Leonardo da Vinci blockbuster show, the Louvre in Paris released ‘Mona Lisa: Beyond the Glass,’ a virtual reality experience that explores the Renaissance artwork. Users learn about the painting’s wood panel texture and how the passage of time has impacted the way it looks using interactive design, sound, and animated visuals.
The experience is available in five languages and may be booked directly at the Louvre for four months. It is also available for download on the VR app store VIVEPORT, iOS, and Android.
Peterson Automotive Museum
In 2017, the Los Angeles-based Peterson Automotive Museum collaborated with Microsoft HoloLens to produce a new installation. The end effect was a thrilling virtual reality experience. The Ford GT40, a legendary American sports automobile, was available for visitors to interact with.
The victor of multiple Le Mans races in the 1960s, this supercar is a fascinating piece of history. Visitors may see the automobile up close using the HoloLens and compare it to a recent 2017 Ford GT. The exhibition’s goal was to tell a tale by combining actual and virtual environments.
The addition of spatial audio, or surround sound, drew visitors even deeper into the experience. They could hear the engines roar and the sounds of tires racing around a track while learning about the history of the cars.
According to Terry Karges, executive director of the museum, the show is a fantastic addition. The museum hopes to deploy more interactive displays like these in the future to expand its storytelling capabilities.
The National Museum of Finland
In 2018, the National Museum of Finland in Helsinki debuted a new virtual reality display. Visitors can travel back to 1863 by viewing R. W. Ekman’s artwork Alexander II’s Opening of the Diet 1863. People can use the VR headset and feel like they are within the painting.
Visitors are immersed in the scene and a three-dimensional view of the Hall of Mirrors. They can converse with the Russian Emperor and other figures in the artwork. It’s part of a show on life and politics in Finland during the Russian Empire in the 1860s.
In addition to a new show, the Smithsonian Institution included a virtual reality component in 2018. No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man was on view through January 2019 at the Renwick Gallery.
Every year in the Nevada desert, the iconic Burning Man festival takes place. Every August, a makeshift metropolis of artists and revelers emerges from the forest. It’s a cultural movement as well as an art event. Massive art installations rise to the surface throughout the festival before being burned.
Some of these remarkable large-scale sculptures were on display at the Smithsonian. The spirit and origins of the event were also explained to visitors. The VR experience is still available, even though the show ended in January 2019.
People can still enjoy the display even though the entire collection is no longer available. One of the advantages of virtual reality is this. It can preserve memories of events that people might otherwise forget.
The Tate Modern
The Tate Modern in London has also embraced the virtual reality craze. They produced an amazing VR display with their Modigliani retrospective in 2017/18. Visitors might fully immerse themselves in a 3D recreation of the artist’s Paris studio.
The show was based on the actual studio area. The room still exists, but it is not in the same condition as back then. After much research, the museum produced an accurate replica of the artist’s final studio as it would have been 100 years ago.
VR is a vital tool, according to Hilary Knight, Tate’s head of digital content. “It’s a technique of transmitting sentiment, of assisting people in feeling a connection with an artist,” she explained. It’s a different method of taking in information, and it gives the artist a sense of aliveness.”
The National Museum of Natural History in Paris
In 2018, the National Museum of Natural History debuted its first permanent virtual reality exhibition. The installation deals with evolution as part of the museum’s larger scope.
Visitors are fully immersed in a journey of discovery when they enter the “Cabinet of Virtual Reality” and put on the VR headsets. They can investigate the relationships between species by getting up and personal with a range of critters.
To assist visitors in grasping the exhibits better, the museum resorted to technology. Its goal is to make the concepts underlying it more understandable. They intend to continue to expand their permanent VR collection in the future.
Natural History Museum
In 2018, the Natural History Museum collaborated with Sky to create Hold the World, an educational virtual reality experience that allows you to meet Sir David Attenborough face to face.
The interactive experience transports you to London’s Natural History Museum, where you may handle and resize a few rare specimens from the museum’s world-famous collection. At the same time, Attenborough explains key details about how the creatures must have lived, eaten, breathed, and more.
Challenges Museums Face Around The Use Of VR
The examples above demonstrate how VR can be used to enhance museum exhibits. It enables curators to bring subjects to life and shift viewers’ perceptions. However, as with any new technology, it comes with its own set of obstacles.
A panel discussion on the topic was held at MuseumNext Australia in February 2017. Nils Pokel of the Aukland War Memorial Museum discussed his virtual reality experiences in a museum setting. He expressed his belief that when utilized in conjunction with a curator’s existing tools, VR will continue to provide value.
He mentioned that it has certain distinct characteristics, such as the potential to generate a true first-person experience. This may be a significant selling point for a new display. Although he believes VR is beneficial, he acknowledges some drawbacks.
Cost is now one of the most limiting considerations. Virtual reality equipment is not inexpensive. Furthermore, creating and managing virtual reality programs can be costly. Costs can rise depending on the scope of the project.
Many factors must be considered, including the cost of bespoke content design and the replacement of broken headpieces. Pokel discussed how his Aukland War Memorial Museum exhibit ran into technical difficulties. In fact, after only a few weeks, they had roughly 15 broken headsets.
Another thing to consider is hygiene. Over a day, multiple people wear headsets. Skin, hair, and grease can quickly accumulate. This can spread illnesses. Many museums have decided to clean the gadgets between uses with the help of staff or volunteers. There are also disposable hygiene masks available.
Pokel also addressed the problem of Simulation Sickness. Some people may find their first virtual reality encounter unpleasant or even nauseating. This is due to a gap between your physical body and the virtual realm in which your mind exists. Headaches, eyestrain, disorientation, vertigo, and even vomiting are possible symptoms.
Future Of VR In Museums
The Kremer Museum has gone above and beyond the preceding instances. It does not exist as a physical museum. Over 70 17th century Dutch and Flemish old masters are on display. They are only accessible through the VR experience and do not form part of a tangible collection.
Projects like this go a long way toward making museums more accessible to the general public. They can, for example, assist those with mobility challenges in viewing exhibitions from the comfort of their own homes. Virtual reality can transfer visitors to collections on the other side of the globe without ever boarding a plane.
Some may be concerned that virtual reality will deter people from going in person. Despite ventures like the Kremer Museum, it appears that virtual reality experiences will not replace traditional encounters. The president of the National Museum of Natural History in Paris is Bruno David.
“People are coming to a museum to view real artifacts because real objects are emotional,” he told the New York Times on VR in museums. Virtual reality exhibitions are meant to enrich and complement current models, not replace them.
There’s a risk of employing virtual reality just for the sake of it, as a gimmick, or to appear more modern. However, when done correctly, it can bring collections to life. The examples above demonstrate how Virtual Reality can improve the museum experience. These institutions have designed unique displays that engage viewers on a personal level.
There are several famous museums around the world. Visit this blog post to learn about these museums.