Dulwich Picture Gallery partners with Google to create virtual reality tour - Museums Association

Dulwich Picture Gallery partners with Google to create virtual reality tour

Children at King’s College Hospital are first to use new app
Jonathan Knott
Dulwich Picture Gallery has partnered with Google to provide a new virtual reality tour that mimics the experience of a visit.

People can experience the tour using the Dulwich Picture Gallery app and a Google Cardboard headset – a DIY virtual reality viewer created by placing a smartphone on a folded cardboard mount. The app is available to download from the Google Play Store.

The gallery is the first arts institution in the UK to partner with Google to create a virtual reality tour app. The Google Cultural Institute works with many museums, but so far only a handful worldwide have made a VR app for use with Cardboard in this way.

The app uses Google’s Street View technology to give users a 360 degree view of many of the key rooms in the gallery including the enfilade and its adjoining rooms as well as the mausoleum, where the gallery’s founders are buried. The tour also features audio material, and additional text information is currently provided for about fifteen of the works.

Louisa Bee, the press and communications manager for the gallery, said: “We’re particularly hoping that it can provide people who can’t access the gallery with an experience of it, be that young people living in different countries, people in poor health, or older people.”

She hoped that the virtual tour would also inspire visits in person, saying: “There’s only so much you can replicate a visit without being here.”

Long-term patients aged between six and 14 at Kings College Hospital were the first to try out the virtual reality tour as part of an outreach session last week.

“It was a resounding success – they were saying how much it felt like they were there. Some of them had never been to an art gallery,” said Bee.

The app currently follows a set route, but the gallery hopes to add more tours focusing on particular topics.

Roger Walshe, the director of public engagement at Dulwich Picture Gallery, said:
“We are just beginning to discover the potential of immersive technology to provide startling aesthetic experiences and inspirational learning environments. Over the coming months we will be trialling and enhancing this technology with schools, young people and the public.”

Dulwich Picture Gallery was designed by regency architect John Soane and opened to the public in 1817. It holds a large number of French, Italian and Spanish Baroque paintings and British portraits from the Tudor period to the 19th century.

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