Museums are facing major changes, encouraging them to carry out all sorts of experiments, all with the ultimate objective of boosting numbers of visitors and enhancing their experience. Following the first step of digitizing works to make them available online, new innovative initiatives are now emerging. We review some of these trends.
VISITING A MUSEUM FROM YOUR ARMCHAIR
WHY BE DEPENDENT ON A PARTICULAR PLACE WHEN NEW TECHNOLOGIES CAN LIBERATE YOU?
Now, it is not just digitized works of art which can be viewed online, but whole spaces made available to a wider public. You can take a virtual tour of some rooms in the Louvre, for example.
This type of tour does follow a fairly inflexible route, however, and this is where robotics comes in. Some museums offer tours via a robot equipped with a camera and steered remotely by the visitor. The Musée des Confluences in Lyon, France, experimented with the idea at its inauguration, as did Tate Britain in London, with the “After Dark” event involving a night visit to galleries.
Half-way between the two approaches, the Google Arts and Culture app uses virtual reality to offer a chance to discover millions of works of art, images and historic documents from museums and archive centers. By combining the app with the Google Cardboard, a virtual reality headset, it is possible to take a genuinely immersive tour of spaces, including the Guggenheim Museum in New York.
EXPLORING ART DIFFERENTLY
Allowing remote museum tours via virtual reality is far from the only, or most exciting, use of this technology. Surrounding yourself with paintings, immersing yourself in movies or discovering monuments in their original condition – the possible uses are mind-boggling. The London National History Museum, for example, has screened a virtual reality movie presenting aquatic life in the prehistoric era. With 360-degree, 3D vision, the ocean bed 540 million years ago is now almost within reach.
Taking a more offbeat approach, at the start of the year the Dali Museum in St Petersburg, Florida, brought visitors a virtual reality movie inspired by one of the Surrealist painter’s works. Spectators are invited to walk through the artist’s strange and singular universe.
In the Holocaust Museum & Education Center in Illinois, technological advances are not used for sensationalism but to bring recent history within everyone’s reach, through the “New Dimension in Testimony” project. A full-scale projection of a Holocaust survivor answers visitors’ questions via voice recognition software, which uses key words to select answers from 20 hours of interviews. A holographic projection is planned.
CONSTRUCTING A TAILORED TOUR
Inviting visitors into the museum’s world is one thing, enabling them to create their own route is another. At the Cleveland Art of Museum, a tactile wall in the entrance lobby allows visitors to explore the various collections and create a route to suit their tastes. This route is then available on an iPad to guide visitors as they explore.
SEE WHAT ONCE WAS
Finally, technologies exist that let you see what is no longer there. For example, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York presents the Temple of Isis in Dendur in its original colors, using mapping technology and image projection against the monument’s surface. Meanwhile, the Museum of Stolen Art assembles works which have been stolen, lost or destroyed and displays them in virtual reality using an Oculus Rift headset.
Whether remotely or in-situ, with real works or not, museum visits have plenty of surprises left in store!
– Dreams of Dali
– Google cardboard
– Musée du Louvre