What do you think of when you think of culture? Maybe art, music, theatre, museums, books, experiences. When you think of culture, you don’t immediately think of cutting edge technology. And yet digital and virtual reality tools are transforming the way we experience and consume culture, and making a cultural experience achievable from the comfort of your own home.
Looking at where we are today as opposed to a year ago, we can enjoy far more music, theatre and other cultural experiences online. The pandemic has accelerated the digitalisation of culture. Whilst revenue tanked and places were physically shut down, people were in desperate need of distraction. And in an ode to human resourcefulness and creativity, centuries of cultural treasures are now available for us to view and experience online. And what isn’t already online is being added at a rate of knots.
This spring, the Louvre, the world’s most visited museum, announced that it’s entire collection was online. Centuries of human artistry and imagination are now available to be experienced. It’s possible to search through 482,000 items. 482,000 items! It’s not possible to view all these pieces live, as some are usually stored in vaults, so on a real life visit you might miss out on some of the exhibits you were hoping to see. Big institutions like the Louvre had already made moves to digitalise their collection pre-pandemic, but smaller institutions had to scramble to survive.
How does it work?
For those of you that love finding out about the technology behind the scenes, here’s how it works. Items are captured using 360 photography or videography to make each object or artefact come alive digitally and virtually. Every angle is captured, so that when that item is accessed by a viewer, it can be turned around and experienced from every angle as you could in real life. Some sites will offer interactive options, so that you can zoom in and manipulate images or perhaps interact with a digital tour guide. Some sites will offer more immersive experiences where by using a VR headset you will be able to completely exist in that world.
Examples of Culture Digitalisation
- The National Theatre here in the UK have been offering screenings of performances since the first lockdown.The National have been streaming unforgettable British shows, allowing people to get their theatre fix. You can subscribe from £9.99 a month. Even if you’ve missed live theatre and are itching to get back to it, to have all the NT shows at your fingertips for a minimal cost is a fantastic prospect!!
- The Philadelphia Opera launched a streaming service with a mixture of free, pay per view or subscription content. La Scala in Milan started offering online performances and virtual tours of their iconic opera house.
- The Smithsonian has a network of 19 museums, so there are plenty of opportunities for exploring! Virtual reality enabled people to see historic indiginous Navajo artefacts, glimpses of ancient Asia, and the planes of the Wright brothers and Amelia Earhart. They also started hosting online events: public talks, concerts, and public lectures. The National Zoo’s live web cams even captured a cheetah giving birth last year.
- Even the Vatican got in on this revolution, allowing virtual walks around the Sistine Chapel, where you could distract yourself from the global chaos by gazing at Michelangelo’s breathtaking frescos.
- The British Museum has a whole range of offerings online. You can zoom in on 3D replicas of items such as a mummy’s mask, the Babylonian world map and the Rosetta stone. On top of that, they offer a plethora of podcasts and virtual strolls.
- Google’s Arts and Culture project. As you might expect from Google, this is a massive project with multiple apps and sites. You can get singing tips from professional sopranos, beam famous paintings into your room and bring an enormous dinosaur back from the dead…!
There’s so many great things about these online cultural offerings. For a start, it makes everything much more accessible. It might not be realistic to fly your family to America to experience the delights of all 19 Smithsonian museums! But it is an incredible resource to be able to bring art and history to life, from the comfort of your own home. Accessing cultural experiences virtually is also fantastic news for the environment, cutting down on carbon emissions. If you have any mobility issues, the physical toll of getting around these vast institutes can feel overwhelming. Now you can take it at your own pace.
So there you have it! A smorgasboard of amazing cultural experiences to tempt you. All of this positive change has taken place in a brutal year for creativity. It’s exciting to see ways we’ve found to connect with what inspires us, entertains us and uplifts us. And whilst steps are being taken to ease us out of lockdown, we are delighted that these online offerings are here to stay. What do you fancy first?!
Find out more about Circus, our services and recent work. With over 10 years experience, our award-winning team are experts in the field and always happy to give tips or pointers for those looking to explore the virtual world. Contact us anytime.