Margot James, the minister for digital and the creative industries, tries a VR headset

NHM and Science Museum in £5.7m mixed-reality project

Alex Stevens, 16.01.2019
Visitor experience to mix real and virtual environments for two exhibitions in 2020
The Natural History Museum (NHM) and Science Museum are to run mixed-reality experiences for visitors in 2020 as part of a government-funded project aiming “to reimagine the museum visitor experience using storytelling and cutting-edge virtual technology”.

At the Science Museum, visitors will find a detective experience featuring 3D scans of robots and other objects. At the NHM, the experience will recreate dinosaurs from the museum’s collection and feature the research work of palaeontologists.

The project is being funded by a £4m grant from the government-funded body UK Research and Innovation and £1.7m from other sources. A consortium of organisations is being led by independent producer Factory 42, which worked on 2018’s NHM project Hold the World. This featured a holographic David Attenborough created by more than 100 cameras in “volumetric capture”.

Also involved in the project are the Almeida Theatre Company, broadcaster Sky, head-mounted display company Magic Leap, shopping centre group Intu – which will host touring versions of the experiences – and Pearson Education.

Alongside this, a multi-disciplinary team from the University of Exeter will conduct research into individual and group visitor experiences of mixed reality, and how the technology can be designed, evaluated and described “to benefit the creative industries sector”.

The Science Museum and NHM experiences are part of the wider Audience of the Future programme, announced this month by the minister for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Margot James. “It’s great to see that the world of visitor experience at museums is pioneering the adoption of new technology,” said James.

Michael Dixon, the NHM’s director, said the museum was “always exploring how we can harness new technology to bring our unique collection to life for UK and global audiences”, and the Science Museum Group’s director and group executive, Ian Blatchford, said the experiences would allow visitors to “glimpse the future of storytelling”.