Museums were quick to adopt immersive tech like 3D modeling and VR/AR to enhance the experience of their visitors.These immersive experiences have the power to transcend time and space by enabling visitors to journey into different worlds. It also allows them to foster a unique connection with the past by offering a more intimate and engaging exploration of history and art. Some museums have gone one step further by launching digital twins of artwork or exclusive digital collectibles in the form of NFTs. In this article, we will examine how museums are and can further utilize these immersive and futuristic technologies.
Interactive Guided Tour using AR
In recent times, museum tours have been enhanced with augmented reality apps. When a customer scans a physical object, AR can provide additional information about the exhibits digitally, such as history, artist details, and materials used. This can reduce the reading time and clutter of visitors at a certain artwork or exhibit. These exhibits often interactive maps, and games, making learning fun and engaging. The use of gamification in exhibits can also enhance educational outcomes by encouraging young kids to explore and learn in a playful manner.
“The unfiltered history tour” by the British Museum
In 2021, the British Museum released an unofficial guide via an interactive mobile site. This guide provided historical insights into 10 items, including Egypt’s Rosetta Stone and Greece’s Elgin Marbles. Visitors were encouraged to utilize Instagram filters and immersive audio to scan these iconic objects, which launched an AR experience for them and highlighted the origins and histories of the artifacts. This was supplemented by a 10 part podcast series, featuring interviews with experts from the countries the objects came from.
Cleveland Museum of Art
An AR app called “ArtLens” was launched by the museum with the aim of creating an educational and immersive experience. Utilizing their smartphones, visitors could unlock additional information about the artworks and also explore similar and related pieces. The associated artists could also be further researched and other interactive experiences included virtual painting and pottery as well as creation of artistic and virtual self-portraits. AI algorithms were made use of to match visitors’ digital drawings with similar items from the museum’s extensive database.
Digital In-Museum Exhibits
3D modeling allows the possibility of creating something new that might not even be physically possible to experience in today’s world. Virtual reality can also be deployed to launch never seen before spaces and allow the visitors to experience something novel.
Story of the Forest at the National Museum of Singapore
Available until 2027, this art installation transforms 69 drawings from the William Farquhar Collection of Natural History Drawings into 3D animations featuring digital flora and changing weather in a forest setting and eliminates any need for headsets. The art symbolizes various histories and especially highlights Singapore’s colonial past in contrast to its present-day modernity.
A trend that became quite prominent in COVID was virtual exhibits using VR technology. Various famous institutions have launched digital art spaces to increase accessibility of their museums and thus allowing people worldwide to explore their exhibits remotely and increasing their customer base. This immersive tech requires the use of equipment, which if managed properly, can allow the viewer to fully immerse themselves in a different simulated environment and can also play an important role in overcoming language barriers by offering translations and culturally tailored content. This further enhances cultural exchange and deepens appreciation for historical and artistic treasures.
Mona Lisa: Beyond the Glass
Partially installed to manage the ever growing number of visitors to the Louvre and also to celebrate the legacy of Leonardo da Vinci, Musee du Louvre released the VR version of the iconic painting, Mona Lisa in 2019. Visitors could get an up-close view of the artwork and observe intricate details that are usually invisible to the naked eye.
Eternelle Notre Dame
Launched after the terrible fire, the “Eternelle Notre Dame” is an immersive VR experience that still lets people visit the Notre Dame while it undergoes re-construction. The experience starts for the user in the 13th century and spans from its inception in 1163 to the devastating fire on April 15, 2019, and also covers the ongoing restoration efforts. Users require a VR headset to undergo this 45 minute immersive tour which provides them with an unparalleled visual and auditory experience of Notre Dame’s rich history.
Digital Twins to Preserve Art
Continuous improvements in 3D scanning, modeling, rendering and AR/VR have led to innovative digital twins’ growth in creative industries like museums. Photogrammetry utilizes all this mentioned technology to capture objects from multiple angles to create precise digital replicas and is at the forefront of art preservation. It also allows visitors to interact with museum objects, satisfying their need to touch them but doing so virtually.
Anglo Sikh Museum’s collection of virtual objects is an example of the successful implementation of this tech. All the artifacts can be rotated and moved in 3D within the user’s browser and also carry ‘touch points’ providing further information and creating an immersive experience in return.
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NFT Launches by Museums
Museums were quick to adopt NFTs to engage and capture younger demographics, expand their revenue sources (especially during COVID), and offer immersive learning experiences to their visitors. Not only this, tokenizing artwork as digital collectibles preserves these artifacts for the future on the blockchain, thus signaling a new era in the art world. It also makes unaffordable artwork considerably more accessible to the general population, which in turn makes the art industry more inclusive.
Museums also leverage the power of NFTs for charitable causes and thus enhance their brand image. Mainly, the NFTs have led to great revenues for the museums. For instance, in 2022, the Belvedere museum in Vienna fractionalized a digital version of Gustav Klimt’s masterpiece “The Kiss” into 10,000 unique NFTs. These NFTs were released on Valentine’s Day and each NFT was priced at 0.65 Ethereum. These NFTs have a total trading value of 139 ETH on the day of writing and are said to have amassed about €4.3 million in revenue for the institution.
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