THE RISE OF VIRTUAL MUSEUM TOURS
The global pandemic has struck the world hard, and one industry hit the hardest is the cultural industry. With most cities being confined to their homes. Museums and cultural centres saw dramatic decreases in their visitors, meaning a dramatic decrease in revenue. This meant that many had to begin the tough task of lowering their monthly expenses to ensure they could recover from the pandemic once life got back to normal. Many have turned to new technologies to find solutions to bringing visitors through their doors in new ways. By partnering with companies like The VR Voyage, these cultural institutions are creating interactive online tours and turning their physical exhibits into online exhibits.
WHY TAKE A MUSEUM VIRTUAL TOUR?
Everyone is aware of virtual reality or VR technology; it has been around for some time now and millions of people around the world are not just familiar with the technology but are also using it regularly. The prospects of VR are limitless, which is why it is an invaluable source for overcoming the barrier of distance that has been created by the pandemic.
Platforms like Google Arts & Culture use virtual reality to create 360-degree tours of leading institutions from Brazil to the Netherlands. One such application is to help students return to their regular academic activities and let them interactively explore their curriculum. By being able to walk through a museum, even without being able to experience the art collection in-person, visitors are still able to explore through lockdowns.
Virtual museum tours have to maintain more than just a pretty image on a screen like an interior version of Google Street View, since this won’t give any context behind what is being seen. Cultural institutions have mandates to educate the public, so tour participants should look for virtual tours that don’t just show fine art by Monet, Picasso or Cézanne, they should tell the story that inspired these impressionist painters.
THE GROWING PROSPECT OF VIRTUAL REALITY MUSEUM TOURS
Having a VR museum tour is an interesting and interactive way of engaging an audience and prompting them to look deeper into an exhibit’s theme. The global pandemic has forced cultural institutions to find new ways of interacting with the public. Companies that can come in and create something unique and engaging out of their collections are adding new layers to the institution’s storytelling capabilities.
Whether they choose to charge or offer their tours for free, there is a growing volume of experiences waiting to be had.
SOME NOTABLE VIRTUAL TOURS FROM AROUND THE WORLD
Since visiting museums and art galleries is more about the experience rather than purchasing or physically engaging in the activity, it is possible to spark interest in the audiences and nurture their critical skills with a VR museum tour. Now the restrictions of money, time, or quarantine can no longer act as a nuisance in the path to exploration. Some of the top institutions around the world that are offering this service include:
THE BRITISH MUSEUM
By showcasing everything from Egyptian antiquities (notably the rosetta stone) to fine works of art, the British Museum offers many ways to explore its collections from the safety of your home.
THE VATICAN MUSEUM
The Vatican Museum and close by Sistine Chapel both have virtual exhibitions to showcase the beauty of their artworks and the history of the Vatican collection itself. With Italy being one of the earliest and worst hit by the pandemic, it is a wonderful resource to be able to still visit this top destination.
SAN FRANCISCO MUSEUM OF MODERN ART
The #museumfromhome movement started by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art has spread across social media and was just what their audience was looking for during COVID-19. You can find links to visit different departments on the museum’s website which has received a warm welcome from admirers around the globe. The museum administration has outdone themselves in terms of bringing educational and informative digital pieces to their viewers no matter where they are in the world.
The Benaki Museum is located in Greece and features art pieces from Asia and Europe from across the ages. There is a massive collection of art pieces from around the globe which are all available in the virtual tour. The museum also offers audio tours from time to time. Amidst the pandemic, the demand for their VR museum tour has skyrocketed with the museum now offering tours for larger exhibits.
The museum itself is a marvellous structure that needs to be seen to be truly enjoyed. Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, the museum is offering virtual reality museum tours which have been designed to be unique and impressive on their own with many beautiful attractions to captivate the interest of the viewers no matter the age.
NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM
With one of the largest collections of natural history specimens in the world, the Natural History Museum took a step back and created a host of online exhibitions to allow visitors to explore from home.
Some other famous cultural institutions offering VR museum tours include:
Metropolitan Museum of Art (MOMA), New York City
Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles
The Smithsonian, Washington DC
Musée d’Orsay, Paris
Getty Gallery, Los Angeles
Uffizi Gallery, Florence
National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City
MASP, Sao Paulo
WHO BENEFITS FROM THIS TYPE OF SERVICE
VR tours can provide plenty of benefits to museums and businesses operating on a similar model, including zoos, art galleries, aquariums, and heritage sites where it is about admiring what the eye can see. By providing these types of tours, they can have a virtual inflow of tourists, build new revenue streams, and further their mandates. The industry is struggling through the pandemic, and visitors are longing to be able to explore once again. Virtual reality is helping both sides.
While we don’t know when any of us will be able to stand in front of a van Gogh again or admire the beauty of ancient Babylonian sculptures, we now have the tools available to create virtual travel options. Whether it is through a museum’s own site or on platforms like The VR Voyage, exploring art and history is still possible. The practice is informative and educational for audiences of any age and now, people can visit any museum from around the globe without having to spend a fortune or a lot of time in transit to arrive at their desired locations.