Virtual Curation, An Arts & Lit Collab
The British Museum, London.
Elinor Jones, Print Science Editor, looks into the possibilities that could arise when combining Virtual Reality and ancient artefacts.
Museums have long held a fascination in our society, a haven for people of all ages and backgrounds, from small children to their grandparents. In the UK we are blessed with some of the most prestigious, famous and beautiful museums, covering everything from fashion and art to technology, transport and science. For years, museums and galleries have captured the imagination of many, sparking conversations about aspects of our society that often are not are the forefront of everyday life, perhaps planting the seed for further study or a lifelong pursuit of information.
A study published in 2013 showed that there are many, population wide, health benefits from art galleries and museums, from calming effects to an increased sense of identity. Whilst others have shown that such places act as vehicles for emotional responses. A collection of projects that studied how older people responded to seeing new and unexpected artefacts from museums showed that positive emotions, such as excitement and happiness, were generally higher. This was especially significant for a group who are highly at risk of being isolated and lonely.
it is likely that VR will bring exhibitions to the masses, to those who may not otherwise access artefacts and be a highly effective educational tool
But what if the days of winding away the hours wandering through exhibitions are behind us? What if we no longer need to step out of the house to experience the joys of art, sculpture or science? With advances in technology speeding along at a mesmerising rate, virtual reality (VR) could soon be giving us the opportunity to witness the V&A, Tate or National Gallery from the comfort of our own home, without the queues and endless photograph taking. Whilst on the surface this may appear to contrast with a core value of galleries and museums, VR may help access the hardest to reach groups, including those socially isolated due to disabilities, language barriers or location. For example, VR could bring museum exhibitions to life for children living in care or for school children living in rural areas who may not have the finances to travel to bigger city galleries. During an internship, I had the opportunity to see the development of an intervention for carers of elderly relatives, which looked at using museum artefacts both in person and through virtual technology to combat problems found living in care, such as loneliness. For example, the app Google Art & Culture allows remote access to VR tours, showcasing a wide variety of museums and historical sites.
VR technology can also allow exhibits to be more interactive, such as images or sculptures appearing in 3D with labels or the use of augmented reality, in which scanning a text or image could open up a quiz or video, aiding the experience and learning gained.
Conversely, there is an argument that VR could restrict people’s willingness to get out and about and explore museums and galleries, potentially isolating people further. However, it is likely that VR will bring exhibitions to the masses, to those who may not otherwise access artefacts and be a highly effective educational tool used in schools and universities. In an age where we are used to spending more and more of our lives looking at screens, immersed in stimuli, it is probable that we will see more technology being incorporated to enhance our experiences and to attract people from all walks of life.