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Developing the MuseIT Virtual Inclusive Exhibition

Updated: Apr 8

One of the initiatives of the MuseIT project is the development of a full-immersive cultural enhanced experience in virtual reality. The MuseIT virtual exhibition will allow users to access multisensory cultural content and will offer a variety of sensory experiences allowing users to engage with different aspects of the exhibits. In MuseIT virtual exhibition, users will have the opportunity to interact with both the exhibition space and the displayed artefacts, enjoying a multi-layered experience.




During the pandemic, we became witnesses to a growing demand for alternative solutions that could enable the remote contact and interaction of people with culture. The conclusion of that experience is twofold: people perceive cultural expression as an integral part of their personal and social identity, and there is a need for finding technology-based solutions to substitute and supplement physical cultural activities with virtual ones. MuseIT is being constructed based on that assumption, with the perspective of achieving the performance of a more accessible, inclusive cultural ecosystem, by exploiting the potentials of the multisensory approach. MuseIT’s vision is to facilitate access to culture for all people, regardless of their perceptual modalities.


The project targets the wide community, attempts to address its varying needs in its interaction with culture by fostering technological solutions that break down the perceptual barriers that arise between people and the cultural material.


During the last decades, technology has offered the cultural sector a considerable spectrum of solutions and tools to assist it to be more open to the wide public, to be participatory and interactive, to be sustainable and resilient to multifaceted changes and ultimately, to be more inclusive, by embracing the varying needs and preferences of people. Virtual reality has emerged as a predominant response not only to the pandemic challenge, but also to the growing transition of cultural experiences to new forms of engagement with cultural content. Since 1947’s André Malraux’s vision of the virtual museum, as an imaginary museum devoid of physical boundaries, where components and information surrounding objects could be globally made available (Roederer, Revat, & Pallud, 2020), there has been a significant evolution towards achieving the ideal version of a virtual museum. Today’s virtual museum can transfer users entirely within the virtual realm, blurring the boundaries between real and virtual, and engaging them in a captivating multisensory experiential journey (Damala, Ruthven, & Hornecker, 2019).


MuseIT lays on the above-mentioned principles to build a virtual exhibition that is both multisensory and multilayered. In MuseIT’s virtual exhibition, the exhibits will be enriched with other senses apart from vision. The users will select the way they want to experience the exhibits through spoken, textual, and tactile media. Additionally, users will interact not only with the exhibits through their senses but also with the exhibition itself, as there will be multisensory stimuli during the overall experience to aid visitors in navigating and exploring the exhibition units (Anastasovitis et. al., 2023). The exhibition aims at users’ emotional involvement. Thus, both the exhibits and the exhibition itself will be accessible, interactive, and relevant to audiences with different modalities.


Regarding the spatial design of the MuseIT virtual exhibition, it is designed from scratch, while the dimensions of the spaces have been based on the amount and scale of the artefacts that will be included. The architectural concept is a minimal design that maintains a consistent connection with the museological space through ambiance, setting, and exhibit arrangement. Additionally, well-known physical exhibitions served as inspiration for the architectural design of the spaces as well as the displays, textures, and lights. One of our primary objectives is to achieve the highest levels of engagement, immersion, and interactivity. Thus, we follow an effective design of the virtual environment so that the architectural elements of the virtual exhibition fulfil a specific purpose and function (Anastasovitis et. al., 2024) . In this way, the spatial design facilitates users' comfort and familiarity, supporting the narrative and evoking emotional reactions throughout the virtual cultural experience. Also, we emphasised flow, navigation, and orientation to ensure a seamless and beneficial user-friendly experience.





In the context of the multisensory and multilayered approach of the MuseIT virtual inclusive experience, we established three levels of user interactions. The initial level exploits the potential of the virtual environment to incorporate communicative media and sensory stimuli into the architectural elements. Thus, at this level of interaction, the user is able to actively engage with the virtual space itself, thereby enhancing the immersion level. The second level of interaction includes dynamic multisensory stimuli. In this way, the users will deeply understand the conceptual context of the exhibition units, enriching the learnability impact and fostering the exploration journey within the exhibition. The last, but not least, level of interaction is the engagement between users and the different modalities embraced by the artefacts. At this level, the users are able to choose their preferred mode of accessing cultural content and interpret it in the most effective way.


Ultimately, the MuseIT exhibition is about the display of artefacts arranged in a museological plan based on a storyline. Owing to our collaboration with our CH (cultural heritage) partners and data providers, we selected an amount of artefacts (engravings, drawings, sculptures, and street artworks) to be displayed in the four thematic units of MuseIT exhibition. At the core of the exhibition’s concept lie the multifaceted contexts of a city’s history and the ways the artists perceive them and then depict them through their artistic expression.


Through the MuseIT project, we have the opportunity to research and delve into the factors that hinder people from experiencing art and our cultural heritage, both tangible and intangible. As we engage people in the creation process, we embrace their needs and preferences, regarding their relationship and interaction with technology and digital culture. As a result, we believe that the MuseIT virtual exhibition will enhance people’s cultural interactions, widen their horizons of interaction with art, and eventually cultivate a more inclusive approach to experiencing culture.




References

Anastasovitis, E., Georgiou, G., Matinopoulou, E., Nikolopoulos, S., Kompatsiaris, I., & Roumeliotis, M. (2024). Enhanced inclusion through advanced immersion in cultural heritage: A holistic framework in virtual museology. Electronics. 13(7):1396. https://doi.org/10.3390/electronics13071396.


Anastasovitis, E., Georgiou, G., Matinopoulou, E., Nikolopoulos, S., & Kompatsiaris, I. (2023). Designing an experimental virtual museum for extended social inclusion through multimodality. In Proceedings of the 20th EuroXR International Confer-ence, Rotterdam, Netherlands, Nov-Dec 2023; Helin, K., Noël, F., & Schäfer, W. (Eds.), VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland. No. 422. https://doi.org/10.32040/2242-122X.2023.T422


Damala, A., Ruthven, I., & Hornecker, E. (2019). The MUSETECH model: A comprehensive evaluation framework for museum technology. Journal on Computing and Cultural Heritage (JOCCH), 12(1), 1-22. doi: 10.1145/3297717


Roederer, C., Revat, R., Pallud, J., 2020. Does digital mediation really change the museum experience? Museomix in the lyon-fourviere archaeological museum. Int. J. Arts Manag. 22, 108–123.

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