Exploring History: Virtual Reality Museums Open Doors in the Metaverse

by | Oct 22, 2023

Museums in the Metaverse, a groundbreaking project, aims to transform the presentation of cultural heritage in a new way. With a significant investment from the UK Government’s Innovation Accelerator program, this initiative seeks to establish an Extended Reality (XR) Culture and Heritage platform that will transport visitors into history and enable them to explore vast collections from anywhere in the world.

Leading this digital revolution is the University of Glasgow, in collaboration with immersive learning platform Edify, Historic Environment Scotland, and National Museums Scotland. Together, they aim to captivate audiences through innovative means, providing transformative extensions to the traditional museum experience.

A primary goal of the Museums in the Metaverse project is to expand access to collections physically and digitally. Chanté St Clair Inglis, Head of Collections Services at National Museums Scotland, expressed her enthusiasm for the project, emphasizing the “exciting possibilities for wide engagement with our collections” through XR. This project not only opens doors for public engagement but also facilitates potential collaborative research in Scotland and internationally.

The implications of this project for the sector are truly transformational. Professionals and researchers will gain unprecedented access to hidden archives and collections, while digital tourism experiences will achieve new levels of reach and scale. Learning and teaching will become uniquely contextualized, and content creators will have access to a wealth of new digital artifacts.

Historically, one of the challenges in creating museum experiences in the metaverse has been the high costs associated with 3D content creation. However, the Museums in the Metaverse project intends to address this by investing in state-of-the-art photogrammetry equipment. This investment will greatly benefit institutions like the Hunterian, enhancing their digital capacity and resources to engage with cultural heritage collections in innovative ways.

Martin McDonnell, CEO and Co-Founder of Edify, expressed his enthusiasm for the project, recognizing the potential of XR for museums and heritage organizations. He believes that Museums in the Metaverse will fulfill this potential and build upon the existing technology’s reach, capability, and specialist focus.

Beyond empowering institutions, the project also aims to empower individuals. Museums in the Metaverse will enable anyone to create their own virtual museums, telling their own stories using objects from around the world. This democratization of museum curation opens up opportunities for diverse narratives and perspectives to be shared and celebrated.

The benefits of this project extend beyond access and engagement. It also offers exciting possibilities for research and collaboration. Highly skilled research staff will develop and publish workflows using cutting-edge photogrammetry equipment, boosting the capacity and affordability of heritage content creation in Scotland and beyond.

Dr. David Mitchell, Director of Cultural Assets at Historic Environment Scotland, shared his enthusiasm for extending access to heritage and engaging with new audiences. He believes that by harnessing technology to enhance the physical museum experience, the Museums in the Metaverse project will allow for a different type of interaction with cultural heritage for future generations.

Scotland has long been at the forefront of digital applications in the cultural heritage sphere, and this project builds upon that reputation. By bringing museums into the metaverse, the aim is to liberate collections that are currently hidden away in storage, making them accessible to a global audience.

Virtual Reality Museums have the potential to revolutionize the traditional museum model. They have the capability to house collections of any size, showcasing distant objects side-by-side and facilitating exploration from any corner of the globe. The Museums in the Metaverse project seeks to unlock the past and make it accessible to a global audience, liberating collections that are currently hidden away.

This project not only promotes cultural regeneration and innovation but also reinforces the UK’s reputation for leading research and development in extended reality technologies. George Freeman MP, Minister of State at the UK Department for Science, Innovation, and Technology, highlighted the significance of museums as catalysts for multi-disciplinary research. He recognizes that museums not only inspire people of all ages and backgrounds but also broaden access to learning and culture by making captivating insights and artifacts available to anyone in the world.

The Museums in the Metaverse project is an ambitious endeavor with the potential to revolutionize the way we experience and engage with cultural heritage. By merging cutting-edge technology with the vast knowledge and resources of museums, this project aims to unlock the past and bring it into the present, creating an immersive and accessible museum experience for all.