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The world is a massive place, and there is so much for us to learn. Many of us at some stage in our lives, have had the privilege of visiting a museum, only to be completely enthralled by the historical stories, geographical timelines, artefacts and culture that are on display. Museums are a source of common connection, dissolving boundaries between us and civilisations and cultures of different times. Furthermore, many museum displays showcase the world’s current art and culture that is shaping our societies. All of this is a very enriching experience for visitors. But, all museums are faced with a common issue; increasing accessibility. 

Not everyone can visit the Louvre or Tate Modern, and why should we be excluded from experiencing the art, culture and history that these institutions have to offer, just because we are restricted by location? 

Virtual museums bridge this gap. In the palm of our hand, we are now able to take 360-degree virtual tours of some of the top museums in the world. Google’s Cultural Institute has taken on the task of making art and culture more accessible to everyone regardless of location. In the latest update to its Arts and Culture mobile app, the company introduced Google Cardboard tours for 20 locations and a new tool called Art Recognizer. 

For in-person museum visits, Art Recognizer offers a captivating experimental feature. By pointing your phone’s camera at art pieces, the software recognizes them and provides related information like the artist’s background and story behind the piece. This on-demand functionality sets Art Recognizer apart from traditional audio tours, as it doesn’t require following a prescribed museum path, offering a more instant and non-linear experience.

The VR tours in the updated Arts and Culture app allow the user to explore the institution through a predetermined route that will also provide a narrated story to enhance the virtual experience. At any stage, a user can log in and have instant access to the virtual museum environment. It is a learning experience that will draw you in.

While increasing accessibility is important, the role of virtual museums extends past this.

School teachers can incorporate virtual museum tours into their lessons, providing students with immersive learning experiences. Students can interact with exhibits, gaining a deeper understanding of subjects ranging from history and science to art and anthropology. 

Virtual museums promote inclusivity. While many museum exhibits incorporate inclusivity in their design to account for language and disability, there can be more room to do this in a virtual environment. Individuals from different backgrounds and walks of life can explore exhibits that resonate with their own heritage or pique their interest in new cultures. This democratization of cultural exploration fosters a sense of global unity and understanding.

Virtual museums play a pivotal role in shaping the future of cultural and historic engagement. They bring the world’s top museums to our fingertips, making them more accessible, while creating a highly engaging educational experience for the user. As we continue to adopt the digital age, these virtual spaces prove to be an invaluable resource to captivate audiences.