While our physical museum is still undergoing a massive renovation (scheduled to open in late 2022), using MediaScape XR visitors can already indulge themselves in a virtual representation of the new museum. This application lets you walk freely through the media museum of Sound and Vision and lets you interact with a 3D recreation of a famous cultural artefact: the costume worn by Jerney Kaagman of Earth and Fire during her 1979 performance on the tv-show TopPop. In the virtual environment, visitors can even wear the costume and reenact the TopPop show together with other visitors.
Designing VR for cultural heritage
But why TopPop and the costume? This decision was made in close collaboration with Sound and Vision curators. We conducted focus group sessions and co-creative workshops to understand the motivations of both museum professionals and visitors, gather novel ideas and collect design requirements. The Earth and Fire outfit and the TopPop setting are considered part of the collective memory of The Netherlands. This provided the designers at CWI great opportunities for storytelling and creating a shared experience. Moreover, it allowed for immersive and fun experiences in VR, such as trying on the suit!
Our exploration of VR for visitor experiences also stems from a desire to do more with our digitised collections. Traditionally, efforts to digitise museum collections have focused primarily on creating digital surrogates. As we are rethinking and redesigning the layout of our physical museum, we are looking into innovative ways to build on our digitised museum collections to support greater interactivity and personalisation. Furthermore, for fragile physical objects, digitisation can help to increase accessibility and allow more people to engage. These developments illustrate an exciting shift in museum experiences from passive observation to more active exploration and engagement.
MediaScape XR aims to immerse visitors in the environment and enable them to have a close-up interaction, with both the artefact and each other. This way MediaScape XR integrates elements from gamification, education and experience design in a novel way to engage with cultural heritage.
While the demo at VRDays placed two users side by side, the setup supports fully remote participation: one user could be located in Hilversum while another other joins from London! And here, perhaps, lies the greatest strength of social VR. The ultimate goal of MediaScape XR is to provide new ways to interact with cultural heritage, accessible to a broader range of visitors beyond the walls of our museum. We hope that through these types of technologies, we can encourage everyone to visit museums together more frequently, regardless of their location or abilities!