Museums of New Era

Museums of New Era
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Museums of New Era

5 June 2020, 10 mins read – Aleksandra Sadovnikova

In the last article we saw how new technologies can change the world of entertainment by applying Augmented and Virtual Realities. Today we will find out if these technologies are good for a touristic sector. 

Before taking a step into the subject, it is necessary to define in what way we’ll talk about the touristic sector. Basically, about the way people travel and places they visit (museums, galleries, places of historical heritage, etc.) and how they do it. 

Now, when the world is emerged in the pandemic of COVID-19, touristic sector is the first to suffer economical damage. As it mentioned by UNWTO (World Tourism Organization), “available data points to a double-digit decrease of 22% in Q1 2020, with international tourist arrival in March down by 57%. This translates into a loss of 67 million of international arrivals and in about USD 80 billion in receipts”. 

Presentation by UNWTO on 

Not only diverse pandemics can be an obstacle for tourism, but also war conflicts or political regimes. In fact, these undesired events may be a struggle for sharing and preserving the world’s art heritage. 

During long time people had no possibility to travel and to meet nations and their history and art personally. But there was always a solution – a students’ book with images or a postcard with a picturesque view.  

In the USSR, for example, there was a very popular thing – a slide viewer (literally called in Russian diaskop), it was used for looking film-transparent pictures. Sometimes those pictures were just family photos or cartoon images, or, if you were lucky, they were reproductions of the world’s famous pieces of art. Let’s say that for the Soviet children (and even adults) it was a possibility to be in touch with fine arts not just on the book’s pages but like in real-time. 

Photo by Suede from blog on

The same was for cartoons or some sort of movies – a filmstrip projector (or filmoskop  in Russian) with a lot of little colourful barrels with films inside. Only few of those projectors were equipped with vinyl for “deeper” immersion in the plot. Basically, the story was shown on the white wall and the written text was read by parents. 

Photo by raasta from blog on 

With development and further spread of World Wide Web it became easy to navigate in the world of art. Museums and historical places started to open their web pages, made pre-recorded excursions inside galleries and castles, and so every person interested to see masterpieces ever produced by human kind was able to satisfy this desire. 

Virtual and Augmented Realities: application in museums

Time passed, technologies became finer and more developed. Virtual and Augmented Realities found their niche in arts, too. Wearing a VR-headset in any exhibition can provide a visitor a unique individual experience. For example, people can not only see object, but interact with them.  

Photo by CROC project on 

Auckland Museum has experienced Virtual Reality in partnership with HoloLens for interaction with a small virtual volcano with lava. 

Photo by Auckland Museum on 

Or a virtual museum can be accessible from any point on the Earth without spending money for expensive trips.  It is also useful for barrier-breaking environment when people with individual limits can fully enjoy art life. We can see the example of the Kremer Museum and 74 Dutch & Flemish Old Master paintings from the Collection that is accessible exclusively through VR technology: visitors are able to examine the artworks’ surface and colors up-close, as well as view the reverse of the paintings to explore each work’s unique stamps of provenance. The Museum also provides VR tools to select schools around the world to fully access the museum. 

Augmented Reality for museums is also popular solution, especially when in case of damaged or stolen items. You can see its application in the famous case of the robbery in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (Boston, USA) that happened in March 1990. The frames have remained empty for 30 years. Now, thanks to AR technology, visitors have an outstanding possibility to see missed pictures just putting a device in front of the empty frame and enjoy the view. Many museums all over the world (like the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, the Franklin Institute, etc.) use Augmented Reality to provide their visitors detailed experience. 

Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee (Rembrandt, 1633) is possible to see using AR. Photo by Hacking the heist project on 

Internet of senses

What else can be included to new technologies? As we mentioned before, different stimuli can play a particularly important role in the way people get in touch with the environment (arts, in our case). Video experience provides basic information about what you see. And what if you cannot see? Or hear? 

heartbeat, for example, can provide you excitement when you look in real life at some masterpiece that you’ve seen only in a book. Maybe it will be able to cause Stendhal syndrome, too. 

Adding smell to excursion can enable deeper perception of the subject. For instance, Euthalia Fragrances has produced a unique fragrance for Genova (Italy) that states to be the very first city’s fragrance in the world. For a virtual visit to the Imhoff-Schokoladenmuseum in Köln can be added a cacao smell which corresponds to the thematic excursion, and so on. 

Smell mask by FEELREAL 

It can be possible to feel tissues and paper while touching them, to explore with fingers art objects (which will be convenient for kinesthetic learning).   

As you can see, added stimuli generate a new form of experience, more immersive and interactive as well as we can have “offline”. Technologies give us fantastic opportunities to travel and see world famous places literally from our sofa when we don’t have time or money to do it in real life. 

New Era of Entertainment

As we said in the first article, new technologies that allow you to have an embodied experience are increasing. What is the difference between Embodied Reality (ER) and Virtual or Augmented Realities in terms of museums and heritage places? 

The main difference is the principal of use. VR & AR usually require headsets and/or a phone or tablet to explore missed things and to interact with objects. Embodied Reality, however, allows users to interact between each other providing “own” experience. Let’s see how it works on practice 

Picture by BeAnotherLab’s workshop in 2015 

Person A wants to go to Florence, Italy, to see the Uffizi Gallery, but have not enough money to permit such journeyHe/She doesn’t want to watch videos on YouTube thinking that only personal experience can be valid for meeting masterpieces. 

Person B lives in Florence and for him/her visiting the Uffizi is not a problem. So, Person A can be connected to person B asking for embodied experience, to be able to look at paintings and statues with “proper” eyes and to be presented inside the gallery. 

Of course, such experience needs technology like every other thing in the world. The difference is that with this technology person A will not only see what person B sees inside the Uffizi, but will also control person B directions (in case person A wants to see something particular or to go to another place), feeling B’s heartbeat and emotions like if they were A’s own.  

Another special point for Embodied Reality is that such technology will be disruptive to the touristic sector (and entertainment in general), allowing personal guides and skilled people work and provide experiences all over the world. 

For the moment, the realization of this idea belongs to the #EUvsVirus Hackathon Challenge winner, Guide-Your-Guide which is the first app to get interactive and personalized remote guidance to a museum or heritage site.  

The purpose of the app is to bring together again the places to visit, guides and culturally hungry people separated by the COVID-19, while supporting the industry of the sites and guides. 

 Guide-Your-Guide offers the opportunity to have a personal and interactive visiting experience regardless of, for example, physical disabilities or limitations. The technical basis of the application is the soon-to-be-launched Xperience Plus platform, backed by a UK company with an operative office in Frankfurt. 

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