16 Jun, 2020
Currently, with the continuous advancement of technologies, several historical and artistic institutions are adhering to interaction as the main element of their exhibitions. Museums, institutions that have always tried to preserve history in objects and artworks, are now detaching themselves from a traditional structure and turning to new digital tools, such as virtual reality, for example.
Just like museums, galleries and other cultural spaces, digital tools facilitate different forms of telling stories. These digital tools not only reframe the ways in which the story can be told, but also preserve the elements of physical history.
For example, many historical and artistic objects (including million-year old fossils) can be harmed over the years as exhibition props, even if museums or galleries do their best to preserve them by limiting exposure to touch or interactions. Such works end up being harmed in the long run even enduring minimal contact with people.
Because of this risks, fragile objects are increasingly being placed in virtual exhibitions, so that visits happen in a virtual way, preventing physical contact and safeguarding such objects of decay.
Notwithstanding the deterioration, but because of the current pandemic, some museums have also adhered to technological tools that try to replace physical contact and, consequently, large crowds, by enabling virtual access.
Amid the global pandemic, many businesses and services have reinvented themselves, and the art and culture segment was just one that had to deal with closed doors and to adapt itself in order to continue bringing art and knowledge to people.
So don't underestimate such technologies, as users trying museums' new virtual experiences report a veracity and strong approximation to artistic works, to the point of imagining themselves immersed in the exhibitions. It's an opportunity to get to know art, even amid the current limitations.
The global pandemic and the closure of museums
The need for social isolation was a measure that started in Asia, soon got to Europe and, in weeks, had spread all over the world. Many services were suspended, mainly places that thrived on large gatherings of people such as cinemas, shopping malls and museums.
Big exhibitions were postponed worldwide, including exhibitions that had taken many years to organize, from the preparation in advance to the acquisition of works, loans from countless places in the world, etc.
But for what reason were these events postponed in the middle of the pandemic?
It may seem obvious, but many people still cannot identify the degree of danger that agglomerations pose in the midst of the pandemic. The coronavirus is a virus that is easy to spread, so that being in contact with anyone, especially in closed environments, can promote contagion in a large scale, and fast.
The closure of museums and galleries shows not only the consequences of COVID-19 for the art world and the comprehension of history, but all the impacts that this pandemic can cause in industries as different as the economy, technology, education, etc.
When the closing of museums are deemed necessary and exhibitions are postponed, shows are cancelled, a big part of the population may see itself as an “orphan” of culture. There is, therefore, an attempt to somehow reframe the experience of visiting and to access artistic and historical content in new ways, as was already mentioned.
Online exhibitions amid social isolation
Staying at home has been a challenge for many and that is why initiatives like live streamings and online exhibitions have made such a difference during social isolation. The transformation from social contact to digital contact is changing the lives of those who are in social isolation and giving the world population a way to keep studying, experiencing cultural products, having leisure time, among others.
However, something that has been taking a large proportion amid the pandemic are visits to museums, because, at a time when museums are closed, the only way out is to try to enter them even if virtually. Virtual access to these museums around the world is also a democratic way for people to know a little more about the history and the different cultures of the world, all using technology.
Learn a little more, now, about some of the museums that are using technology to “replace” physical contact on a temporary basis:
For those who have always dreamed of visiting Rome, the Vatican museums are among the most important museums in the world, and getting to know them can be a memorable event. These museums are home to precious works that have passed through the generations, and all the collections are appreciated and curated by the Popes themselves.
Because they are considered a major monument and have a high number of visits annually, the Vatican museums could not simply close their doors, but had to resignify their existence through digital tools.
The museum provides an online, virtual catalog of works and presents exclusive and historical places, so that everyone can get to know the collection very truthfully, without even having to visit it physically, or leave the house.
The National Gallery is an art museum known worldwide. Located in London (United Kingdom), the museum receives annually about 5 million visitors and is considered one of the most famous museums in the world, because of its very important historical and artistic collection.
Due to the current scenario, the museum expanded its virtual presentations so that people in isolation do not lose contact with European art, creating an opportunity to nourish this relationship without leaving home. When accessing the museum's official website, you will be able to find the “Virtual Tours” section, which describes all the different ways to visit the museum and the technologies used.
A landmark of Paris (France), the Louvre museum is considered the largest art museum in the world, surpassing London's National Gallery in numbers of visits, totaling more than 8 million visitors visitors per year. However, like so many other artistic monuments with large number of visits, the Louvre also needed to close its doors in pandemic and thus initiate an effective use of digital tools that could alleviate the cultural need of their loyal followers.
As other museums, the Louvre is also offering tours online that make it possible for visitors to discover their main works, such as Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa. The entire tour is guided by audios and their projections try to assimilate a proportion closer to reality.
Digital tools used by museums in a pandemic
As previously discussed, numerous museums were already adhering to the use of digital tools that facilitated visitors' access to the artworks. With the arrival of the pandemic, this process was intensified, and these institutions felt obliged to adopt, as soon as possible, measures to “replace” these physical visits.
We’ll discuss now some of the digital tools most used by people, not just by museums, but by various industries worldwide.
The QR Code has appeared much more now in pandemic times, but you may have seen it before, while exchanging money online or in applications in general. QR codes are two-dimensional bar codes that, when pointed at by a smartphone camera, generate a link (URL address), text, location, or anything else that can be programmed. In museums, this tool has been inserted in invitations or artworks' labels, being something simple and easy to use or purchase.
3D 360º technology
One of the most important technologies achieved to date is 3D (three-dimensional) technology, which gives a feeling of depth to those who use it. Such discovery was at first more used in cinemas and on GPS devices, but now it is present on the Internet, in applications and games, as well as different areas of the world.
The 3D technology (360º) allows its users the possibility of experiencing certain events on the smartphone screen in an unique way, that detaches itself from the limits of the angles, because all the 360º images show totality and plurality of angles, as if from an image we could observe the sky at the same time as the floor, increasing depth and reality.
Such reality called, right afterwards, virtual reality, is an attempt to manipulate the even greater reality. In museums, most of the exhibitions are being filmed in a three-dimensional way, so that the visitor can imagine him or herself inside the exhibition, without even having to leave home: they just need to position the smartphone in different ways and see the different angles of the museums, halls, and artworks even more closely.
Another widely used technology that is evolving even more is interactive touch. In museums around the world, more and more “touch” has been considered something very pertinent in the interaction, because when watching an exhibition, some museums are offering places where their visitors can touch and change the order of the visit or exhibition, thus interacting with the exhibition design.
However, due to the pandemic, touch technology is going through a difficult time. Alternatives to virtual touch, such as haptic technology, are under development.
Developed by a Brazilian physicist named Rogério Almeida, Timelinefy is a platform that seeks to present certain historical events and periods and describe it in several layers, presenting the interconnections between the various events that took place in a given period.
This interaction with contents which can be zoomed in and zoomed out of, as well as contain a multitude of possible formats such as audios, videos, and images, are a storytelling method far superior to traditional ways of content exchange, such as writing or reading on textbooks.
Museums such as the CIBA (Interpretation Center for the Battle of Aljubarrota) are adhering to Timelinefy technology that aims to organize the history in a linear, but innovative way.
Another tool widely used today, but already present in our networks a few years ago, is live streaming. This kind of thing, often seen on television, can now be experienced by any person with a smartphone and an Internet connection. In this period of social isolation, nothing better than connecting to a live streaming to somehow try and reframe moments of personal and physical interaction.
Countless shows are being performed and broadcast by artists even from inside their own homes, without a specific location. Many world-famous museums have also joined live technology, giving its viewers a new chance to revive the physical space, from a screen. These live moments are being filmed by a single person inside museums, without agglomerations of third parties.
See how important digital tools are for new knowledge of history and how practical they can be? From this article, you can problematize the relations of time, history and technology in the midst of a pandemic and rethink these elements so that they can provide new knowledge.
The digital age invites us to rethink history, facts, life, marks of time and the future, crossed by a history. So be a part of that story too! Take the chance of using digital tools and start expanding your knowledge or your information with timelines!