Home LATEST NEWS HIGH TECH What if virtual reality was at the service of art history?

What if virtual reality was at the service of art history?

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I noticed that virtual exhibitions do not, in my opinion, allow you to obtain the same commitment or the same satisfaction as when you are in front of a physical work.notes Flavio Cardellicchio, doctoral student in museology, mediation and heritage at the University of Quebec in Montreal (UQAM).

This reflection, which has been inhabiting the cybermuseologist for several years, motivated him to put himself in solution mode. And part of the answer would lie in virtual reality, which would preserve the aura of the works, according to him.

At least that’s what Flavio Cardellicchio is banking on, who, since 2019, has been working to build the museum of the future through an immersive extension of the MMFA’s ÉducArt platform.

Switch from 2D to 3D

On a computer, the platform’s website displays about twenty small colored planets. Each addresses a theme, such as the body, feminism, light and freedoms.

The homepage of the EducArt platform displays colorful thematic planets.

Each little colored ball on the ÉducArt site addresses a different theme in the history of art.

Photo: EducArt.ca

Once the theme has been selected, the paintings, sculptures and other works from the MMFA’s collections that fit the subject can be placed on a timeline. Videos, sound clips and texts help to further knowledge and reflection.

A carousel of works of art placed on a timeline on the ÉducArt site.

The 2D site of EducArt places the works of the MMFA collection on a timeline according to themes.

Photo: MMFA

The virtual reality extension of EducArt brings the public into another dimension: you put on an Oculus helmet (Rift, Quest or Quest 2), and a vivarium of knowledgeas described by Flavio Cardellicchio, offers itself to us.

The design is the continuity of the 2D platform. We dive straight inside the thematic colored balls, to then come face to face with plants, pools of water, impossible structures, and of course, works.

Virtual reality makes it possible to break down the physical and current walls of a museum to go into another dimension, just as whimsical and fantastic. »

A quote from Flavio Cardellicchio

A tutorial at the beginning of the course shows how to navigate in space. We learn that with a pointer controlled by a joystick, we can circulate in the different pavilions, obtain information on a work, or even rotate works of art, enlarge and shrink them.

For the moment, eight works – all from MMFA collections – have been modeled in three dimensions in order to be inserted into the extension in virtual reality. Among these is the statue of theApollo Chigi and The Thinkerby Rodin.

A sculpture of a pensive, crouching naked man in a virtual world.

“The thinker”, by Rodin, in ÉducArt VR.

Photo: Ganesh Baron Aloir

These works were not chosen by chance: teachers from different backgrounds (history, plastic arts and multimedia arts) offered their suggestions. These teachers have also been able to test the tool in class with students over the past few months.

Infinite possibilities

Immersive technology has some benefits for young people’s learning, according to research by Flavio Cardellicchio. He points out, among other things, a better concentration of the students, because the virtual reality headset cuts them off from the distractions of a physical museum or a traditional classroom.

It is a very important means for the assimilation of information, both in current classes and those of the future. »

A quote from Flavio Cardellicchio

And, according to him, virtual reality has no limit.

A man takes detailed photos of a sculpture of Rodin's 'Thinker' in a museum room.

Photogrammetry of the “Thinker” (1881-1882) by Auguste Rodin.

Photo: MMFA, Rose Mercier-Marcotte

Well aware of the immense educational potential of the extension of ÉducArt, Flavio Cardellicchio also believes that it suggests a small revolution in art conservation.

Apollo disappears, because it was stolen, or destroyed, don’t you think that the 3D image of the piece of art could in turn constitute a preserved and heritage work within a collection? ,”text”:”If the statue of Apollo disappears, because it was stolen, or destroyed, you do not think that the 3D image of the piece of art could in turn constitute a work preserved and heritage within a collection?”}}”>If the statue of theApollo disappears, because it was stolen, or destroyed, don’t you think that the 3D image of the piece of art could in turn constitute a preserved and heritage work within a collection?he raises, not hiding his interest in non-fungible tokens (JNF, or non-fungible tokens, NFTin English).

The statue could continue to be studied and preserved, thanks to its vectorization, according to him.

The work Apollo from behind in a virtual world.

The “Apollon Chigi” sculpture was scanned in 3D for EducArt VR.

Photo: Ganesh Baron Aloir

Technology could be used to [remettre dans leur contexte] the works, which are currently torn from their surroundings to be placed on stoolsraises the archaeologist by training.

Three-dimensional modeling would also make it possible to enhance the many works that are in the museum’s reserves, inaccessible to the public.

With the cultural and technological democratization of virtual reality headsets, museums should be more attentive to this type of project and their potential. They could position themselves as precursors in this innovative practice. »

A quote from Flavio Cardellicchio

But Flavio Cardellicchio, a natural dreamer, quickly puts his feet back on the ground when he thinks of schools that do not have the means to equip themselves with virtual reality headsets.

For the moment, the immersive prototype is not accessible to the public. Flavio Cardellicchio hopes to finish writing his thesis during the year and obtain sufficiently convincing research results to attract the investments necessary to deliver a final and public version of EducArt VR.

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