Digital Museums — a Powerful Force for the Future of Global Culture or Just Another Buzzword?
Artists, filmmakers, and writers so often talk about getting in touch with their muse. Their creative minds dig deep into their subconscious to find the sources of inspiration that generate their creative opus, giving us a sense of awe, a sense of beauty, and all too often a sense of the bizarre as their work takes us on a journey that embraces contemporary culture. They have, however, come a long way from the Greek ancestors that inspired them.
In the days of ancient Greece, the Greeks believed that all inspiration for art, literature, and science came from the nine muses. These were the fickle daughters of Zeus, who oversaw creativity. It was down to the creative minds of the day to entice Zeus’ nine muses to deliver inspiration, or nothing new could ever be created. It was here that the Μουσεῖον (Mouseion) was born. These were places devoted to the muses — or as we choose to call them today, museums.
From these humble beginnings, museums have evolved to embrace the digital age, and continue to evolve. In this article, we will explore the rise of digital museums, how they can add so much more value to traditional museums, and where they will take us in the future.
What is a Digital Museum?
Digital museums, sometimes called virtual museums, take us on a journey into the cultural layers we expect from a traditional museum but through a digital landscape. They are essentially digital replicas of existing museums, which convert their existing artefacts and art collections into digital files, video and sound files. These are then posted on their website in other digital channels. This enables people from all over the world to see the museum’s collection even though they may not be able to visit the bricks and mortar location and was particularly important during the pandemic.
The Rise of Digital Museums
Like so many areas of our lives, the pandemic accelerated digital adoption within museums. We were all in lockdown and unable to visit museums and art galleries, forcing museums to rethink their engagement strategies. This resulted in many examples of innovation with perhaps one of the most notable being the Rijks museum in Amsterdam.
Within a few days of the lockdown, the museum created Rijks Museum at home — a curated series of videos produced weekly that used the museum’s collections to provide relevancy to the museum for global visitors during very difficult times. Museums are now embracing new technologies positively.
The Role of Technology in the Digital Museum
With the ever-increasing evolution and increasing power of technology, museums can open up so many more opportunities to display their artefacts and collections. Today, when you go to a museum you can purchase headphones to wander the museum at will and listen to interesting tidbits all about the painting on display and its artist. In the Louvre in Paris, you might see the Mona Lisa and hear about Leonardo da Vinci’s painstaking craft to create that infamous enigmatic smile. That said, with emerging technologies such as Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) you have the ability to feel a much richer experience.
In 2020, the Louvre created Mona Lisa: Beyond the Glass. This was the Louvre’s first Virtual Reality project that created an 8-minute immersive VR experience for you to experience on your VR headset at home to take you into the very world of Leonardo Da Vinci. (check out their Youtube video for more information). While a great experience at home, it is very hard to have this same experience in an existing museum where wearing a Virtual Reality headset presents all sorts of dangerous situations for the museum. To get over this, some museums are using AR instead.
AR enables you to superimpose images and sounds on top of what you can already see. This is usually done via a mobile phone or a tablet. This brings existing artifacts and art collections to life in the environment around you without having to use a VR headset. The next natural extension of this will be AR-based glasses which Apple are frantically currently working on.
The beauty is that where ever you are — be it at home or in the museum — you can re-create the museum artifacts in front of you. Whichever technology is being used, the experience places you in the museum itself without needing to be at the museum’s location. For museums, this opens up so much flexibility.
What are the Advantages of Digital Museums for Museums?
Digital museums have the capacity to expand their brands globally without having to add the very high capital costs of additional bricks and mortar locations. It also means museums have flexibility in what they display at any given time. Digital artifacts can be put up and taken down at will. Equally, museums can showcase artifacts that may not be on display.
Most museums have artworks or Artifacts that are in storage because they do not have sufficient space to display them. Equally, pieces the museum owns may be rented out to other museums for global collections that go on the road. Using the digital museum concept, once they have created digital files of the artifacts they can re-purpose them for different channels.
What Does the Future Hold for Digital Museums?
As talk increases around the Metaverse, three core visual technologies are converging — AR, VR and gaming. This opens up creative opportunities for the museums — where for example a car museum may enable you to feel like you are driving the original Model T Ford. It’s not only the experiences, however, that will grow and evolve it is also the design of the museums themselves.
With digital museums, you do not have the constraints of bricks and mortar museum. Instead, you are only constrained by the limits of your imagination. Architects can design and build interiors and exteriors that they could never build in the real world. There are no load-bearing walls, roofs that have to withstand hurricanes or seismic isolation technology built into foundations that need to absorb earthquake tremours and prevent buildings from collapsing. Architects’ imaginations can go wild free from real-life constraints. Instead of handing over their designs to a builder, the architect hands it over to game developers to create the visual landscape inside.
To get a sense of where this can go check out Shoyu’s Metaverse NFT Art Gallery on Youtube
We are just at the beginning of the explosive potential for Digital Museums that really had a significant kickstart from increased digitisation associated with the pandemic. Museums and their customers alike are both at the beginning of a raft of flexible experiences. The museums themselves now have plenty of new and different business ideas to consider that explode further with every iteration of new technologies.
Undoubtedly there are exciting times ahead where creative imagination will reap great rewards. Perhaps it’s the museum curators’ turn to get in touch with their own muse to develop creative opportunities that create new worlds that would make their Greek Ancestors proud.
Zeitls is a digital platform that helps museums and art galleries to preserve history while at the same time generating precious additional funding through the sale of the non-physical rights digitally linked to the museums’ artifacts. We do this by creating digital twins of museums’ artifacts in the form of 3-D models as NFTs. These NFTs have clearly defined non-physical rights coded within them.
With Zeitls, museums can preserve the historical importance of artifacts and pieces of art for years to come by transferring valuable non-physical rights to the pieces into the digital world of the Metaverse and beyond. If you are a museum, art gallery or looking to partner with us, please get in touch!