Virtual tours in museums, galleries, cultural and heritage spaces

Contrary to popular belief, Virtual Reality can be made possible with limited budget.

We need to disprove the misconception that the integration of digital technology into the cultural sector is a step that requires huge investments. Not necessarily! In reality, this can be made possible with limited budget. Take for example the abundance of virtual reality tours through Google Arts & Culture, or Google Expeditions. One can take a VR tour anywhere in the world using only a smartphone (taken that you've installed the respective apps) and Google Cardboard (VR kit) which costs under £10.

Why the contribution is important

For me, the idea is important primarily because it focuses on the principle that culture should be accessible to anyone, anywhere. It is a concept that has the ability to significantly enhance the educational experience of all age groups; particularly children and young people. 

In addition to making culture and heritage accessible to people who cannot physically visit a museum or a gallery, the idea is equally beneficial for minority communities located in rural places. VR tours of, e.g. a Cornish museum, can be made accessible to people who wouldn't (and couldn't) normally visit rural Cornwall. These 'virtual visitors' would receive information on Cornish cultural heritage, breaking geographical barriers.VR tours would, hence, help raise awareness on the cultural heritage of minority communities. To sum up, VR tours would achieve:

ACCESSIBILITY - Engagement of broader (locally, nationally, globally) and under-served audiences - especially children and young people, belonging to the age group that is the most tech-savvy.

Community cohesion and sense of identity, through the wider distribution of one's cultural heritage and identity.

Significant enhancement and added value on educational experiences, through immersive, entertaining, yet equally educational VR sessions. This can be made possible through virtual tours, virtual games, etc. 

by Yiota on July 05, 2017 at 03:50PM

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Comments

  • Posted by willpsaunders July 07, 2017 at 10:12

    Thanks so much for your contribution. Please be assured that we are exploring the potential for virtual experiences. The growth of immersive technology and what it can offer the cultural and heritage sector is part of our workstream so please do stay over the platform as that theme will emerge more strongly in the coming weeks.
  • Posted by Isildaa July 07, 2017 at 12:41

    I agree with the potential and wide reaching impact of virtual technologies to enhance or maximise access to collections and sites as long as it is not used as a replacement to visit the sites because there are wider implications in terms of economic development, cultural economy etc. I think making a positive use of virtual reality to support promoting Cornwall to those who normally wouldn't visit because their perception is that there is nothing for them there. The issue with technology as a surrogate for real time visits has far reaching implications- are we creating experiences in response to lack of wheelchair access or difficulties in transport infrastructures or people not being able to visit due to poverty and deprivation? If that is the case technology is only going to deepen the gap and offer a more subtle way of making culture accessible to people at different levels according to their positioning in the class system where those who have more access more and those who don't access less. Remote access is not the answer for those challenges, that is part of a bigger conversation.
  • Posted by Yiota July 18, 2017 at 14:38

    Hi Isildaa and thanks for your comment.
    I think that, in an ideal world, we would all want arts, culture and heritage to be tangibly accessible to everyone. But given that this is not the case due to geographical barriers and accessibility issues amongst others, I believe the possibility of offering virtual tours has the ability to narrow that gap, not widen it. It is not only poverty and deprivation that make it impossible for some people to physically visit a site, but it is also a matter of physical and health conditions, i.e. most senior people find it extremely hard to travel - whether that is locally or globally.
    In terms of economic development, I believe that the main objective here is accessibility and participation (for me, education for all) - not how much money we'll earn by visitors. However I do believe that by making Cornish heritage accessible to a number of people virtually, we also increase the possibility of them opting for a physical, real-time visit in the future. It is also kind of a marketing tool, is it not? So yes, I'm confident that virtual tours would definitely have an impact of some extent to future site visits.
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