Issue 118/06, p15, 01.06.2018
Is virtual reality (VR) the next big thing in museums?
Andrew Dewdney, co-director, Centre for the Study of the Networked Image, London South Bank University

“Google, Microsoft and Apple are looking to develop devices to connect more people, in more compelling ways, to more databases. Far from offering technological tools to free the mind, VR is an operation of the automation of culture. Heritage objects used in 3D-animated VR restrict, not expand, new knowledge and understanding because they depend on closed programming. The technological imaginary should draw attention to the fact that the human computer interface is deeply embedded in everyday life and has changed our relationship to the principle of reality itself. VR is a distraction for the museum.”

01062018-tim-powellTim Powell, creative producer, Public Engagement Department, Historic Royal Palaces

“Heritage sites are already a sort of VR – visitors time travel in their imaginations. And there is clear potential for creating new types of experiences on-site and taking our stories global. But digital ‘wows’ are shallow if not delivering meaningful, quality content. Distinctive experiences require artists, technologists and cultural organisations to collaborate – challenging and inspiring each other. The best technology experiences are very human ones. It will never replace the real, but there is clear potential if we take time to identify unique opportunities and collaborate as equals in the creative process.”

01062018-dado-valenticDado Valentic, chief technology officer, Acute Art (virtual reality arts platform)

“Digital technology has entered and influenced almost all spheres of our life. Each time digital technology has made a foray into a new area of our being, a wave of change has followed. With the arrival of VR, we are going to see a new wave of change. This time the transformation is going to bring a new way of accessing and experiencing artistic creations. One of the main characteristics of VR is its ability to take viewers from their physical location into another dimension of time and space. With VR, museums will be able to expand their audiences beyond the limits of physical boundaries.”

01062018-iain-watsonIain Watson, director, Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums

“As with any technology, form must follow function. I am delighted that the Science Museum Group is lending Stephenson’s Rocket to the Discovery Museum for the Great Exhibition of the North. I am also delighted that Hedgehog Labs, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, has developed a VR Rocket Ride. If we hadn’t got the real thing would I have been as delighted with the VR ride? No! For good reason, we can’t use the real rocket for steam train rides so VR replaces an impossible journey and supplements the haptic experience of the real museum object."