Chinese museums are at the forefront of an art and cultural revolution as they embrace the metaverse, a virtual space that connects the past, present, and future. Through virtual reality exhibitions, digital employees, and digital collections, museums in China are redefining how visitors engage with art and history.
Chinese museums are using cutting-edge technology to provide immersive and interactive experiences. At the recent Chinese Museum Studies Conference, experts showcased the potential of virtual reality exhibitions. For example, the Nanjing Museum brought its exhibition, “The Valuable Collections of Nanjing Museum,” into the virtual world, allowing visitors to explore the museum’s treasures from their homes.
The Shanghai Museum has introduced a platform to sell digital artworks from its collection. This initiative generates revenue for the museum and provides new avenues for art enthusiasts to appreciate and collect digital masterpieces.
Museums on archaeological sites are also embracing the metaverse, offering immersive shows that transport visitors back in time. The Sanxingdui Museum, known for its ancient relics and artifacts, uses glasses-free 3D technology to create a captivating experience in its archaeological pits. Visitors can walk among bronze statues and golden masks, gaining a deeper understanding of the rich history beneath them.
Recognizing the potential of the metaverse, China issued a three-year action plan in September to drive its development. This plan aims to foster collaboration between museums, technology companies, and cultural institutions, bridging the gap between traditional museums and the digital realm.
A notable project from this plan is the Mogao Caves’ digital library-like cave. This digital project allows people to explore the intricate cave paintings and manuscripts, preserving the delicate artifacts for future generations.
Digitization in museums goes beyond artifacts alone. The China National Museum introduced its first digital employee, Ai Wenwen. This intelligent avatar guides visitors through the virtual space, offering insights and information about the museum’s collection. Visitors can even create their own digital avatars, fostering a sense of personal connection and immersion within the museum’s virtual environment.
However, the transition to the metaverse is not without challenges. The Nanjing Museum faced complaints about ticket availability, prompting the institution to recommend online and virtual reality shows as an alternative. This shift towards digital experiences increases accessibility and addresses limited physical space in museums.
Wang Chunfa, the director of the China National Museum, has been a vocal advocate for museum digitalization and the metaverse. His support led 50 prominent museums in China to release a joint proposal, emphasizing the importance of engaging in the development of metaverses. This collaborative effort aims to create unique virtual spaces where museums can exhibit their collections, transcending geographical limitations and reaching a global audience.
The metaverse also provides a protective shield for fragile artifacts in museums on archaeological sites. Digital visits ensure that these priceless pieces can be appreciated without the risk of damage or deterioration, preserving our shared cultural heritage.
The metaverse represents a significant leap in art and cultural exploration. It offers a dynamic platform for museums to evolve and engage with audiences in unprecedented ways. As China leads the charge in this digital revolution, other countries are likely to follow, ushering in a new era of museum experiences that go beyond physical boundaries. The metaverse is not just a glimpse into the future; it is a gateway to a world where art, culture, and history converge in extraordinary ways.