Augmented reality, and especially virtual reality, have become a great resource for cultural institutions of different nature, such as museums, monuments or historical sites.
It is clear that technology plays a key role in the lived didactic experience, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in a historical and interactive adventure.
We can say that virtual reality is not only transforming the communication channel between cultural spaces to spread knowledge of the objects they treasure, but it is also changing the way visitors see the world.
Since 2016, the year of the “great emergence” of VR, we have seen more and more spaces that are committed to offering their visitors a completely new and impressive experience. To achieve this, they have new immersive technologies that allow them to connect with their visitors in a more empathetic and close way. In addition, it manages to involve viewers, which improves and facilitates their understanding.
Static museums are a thing of the past. Cultural institutions are aware of this and have known how to understand this public demand and the need to renew their information offer.
But it is useless to rely only on the great innovative potential of this technology. The true strength of this tool resides in having the highest historical and artistic rigor, that is, offering didactic content from a playful point of view.
Here are some examples of immersive experiences, used not only in museums but also in other areas such as archaeological sites, monuments or historical places that allow you to appreciate the great potential of VR in the world of art and history.
Memory: Stories from Cueva de la Garma
The Garna cave is located in Cantabria. Despite not being as well known as other nearby sites, it has extraordinary horse paintings that take advantage of the natural forms of space, dated between the Aurignacian and Middle Magdalenian (between 29,000 and 13,500 years old).
Since 2008 the Garma has held the title of World Heritage cave, in order to guarantee the conservation of its fragile paintings, in addition to keeping its access closed to the public. In order to display its incredible contents, since 2019 the Museum of Prehistory and Archeology of Cantabria (Mupac) offers an immersive journey through its interior that allows you to discover in detail and almost live one of the most important archaeological sites of the Paleolithic in Europe.
The National Museum of Finland
Since 2018, the Helsinki-based National Museum of Finland has had a virtual reality exhibition, where visitors can go back in time to the year 1863 while looking at the painting by R.W. Ekman “The Opening of the Diet 1863 by Alexander II”.
The experience allows viewers to feel part of the painting itself, strolling through the Hall of Mirrors, where the play is set as if they were just one more character in the play. They can even speak to the Emperor of Russia and other characters depicted in the painting.
This experience tries to improve understanding as a didactic tool in an exhibition that details what life and politics were like in Finland in the 1960s, when it was part of the Russian Empire.
Remembering Pearl Harbor
On December 7, 1941, one of the most important events in recent American history took place. The surprise attack by the Japanese on Pearl Harbor Air Base marked the entry of North Americans into World War II, the military, economic and social consequences of which affect our world today.
75 years, the VR experience “remembering Pearl Harbor” offers us to know this historical event from a perspective never seen before. The experience takes us back to 1941 where, under the memory of Lieutenant Jim Dowing, we toured the naval base the day he suffered the air attacks.
This is a historical experience created using resources from the National World War II Museum and the Library of Congress, which provided the data, artifacts, and references from primary sources; all under the supervision of award-winning author and Pearl Harbor expert Craig Nelson as historical advisor.
To finish our tour of cultural experiences in virtual reality we approach one of the most recognized historical sites in the world: Machu Picchu.
Explore VR is a collection of experiences developed by National Georgraphic for the Oculus platform, which allows us from starting an expedition to Antarctica to kayaking among icebergs or climbing an ice barrier while trying to survive a snow storm in our search for a penguin colony. The last title in this collection leaves out extreme adventures to take us to one of the most iconic corners of pre-Columbian culture at the top of the most sacred mountain of the Incas, in present-day Peru.
The experience is in development, but we already have a brief preview that shows users interacting with buildings and objects and reading data about the architecture and history of the place.