The Data Visualisation Observatory (DVO) has started collaborating with the Institute for Cultural Practices at The University of Manchester in order to help create interactive experiences and exhibitions for museums and galleries.
The aim is that museum professionals can begin working within the DVO to help them design visitor experiences, while also helping to achieve a more interactive experience for visitors. A pilot project is already underway involving a number of cultural organisations in Manchester, including the Manchester Art Gallery, the People's History Museum, the Manchester Museum, and the Central Library.
Kostas Arvanitis, Senior Lecturer in Museology at The University of Manchester, said the DVO was a great facility for Manchester to have on its doorstep and he envisaged it being used widely in the future by the arts sector, not just across the city but nationally and internationally too.
"There is huge market for interactive, high-quality and portable technologies which can enhance the visitor experience at arts venues. The Observatory has potentially great value in the cultural sector in terms of helping to create bespoke, interactive experiences for visitors."
The collaboration comes on the back of a major project launched last year by the University's School of Arts Languages and Cultures, The Institute for Cultural Practices, Creative Manchester and Digital Futures which 3D scanned public spaces in cultural institutions at The University of Manchester and local museums, galleries and other cultural and heritage sites.
At a time when visiting these spaces is difficult due to the pandemic, the 3D scans provide an alternative and complementary virtual experience of being in and walking through a cultural space. The project also provides university staff with opportunities to embed the 3D scans in teaching and learning activities, and enables students to conduct virtual research in these spaces too.
The aim in the future is that the 3D scans will become an essential public engagement tool, providing cultural organisations with additional opportunities to engage with existing and new audiences.
Dr Arvanitis said the discussions with the DVO were very much a natural extension to this initial project. "Part of the next stage of the wider project is to see if the DVO can help us extract 3D models and create more interactive environments for users. At the same time we can engage with cultural professionals across the city to highlight exactly what the DVO can do and promote its fantastic potential.
"For instance, one of the questions we are asking ourselves is can we replicate remotely what the DVO does in a smaller space at a specific cultural institution. Can we create bespoke services for visitors based on the DVO technology."
Another potential use of the DVO in the arts sector would be to help museums and galleries show off their entire collections, something which is usually not possible due to the size constraints of a building.
Adds Dr Arvanitis: "Again, the DVO can help here by enabling museums to visualise collections data as part of a virtual or remote tour guide."
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