The cultural sector's evolution with the boom in new technologies

7 min reading time

Published on 03/03/22 - Updated on 17/03/22

Nouvelles technologies culture

Cultural meditation is constantly evolving and follows the major societal trends. This is demonstrated by the development of increasingly immersive and interactive offers in recent years. This modernisation of offers and visits has been made possible thanks to the new technologies. They are multiplying and their use is rapidly becoming more widespread. Let's take a look at the latest innovative cultural offers.

A new vision of culture through augmented and virtual reality

For some years now, new ways of visiting have been developing, notably with the rise of augmented reality and virtual reality. The former is a technique that overlays a digital representation of reality updated in real time. While the latter allows a three-dimensional environment to be simulated with the help of a computer. Museums and other cultural spaces have seized upon these technological innovations to offer their visitors new experiences.

This is the case of the Château de Chambord, the Palais des Papes in Avignon and the Conciergerie in Paris, which offer visitors the possibility of discovering what the places looked like when they were built. The Chambord castle can be explored during the Renaissance period. This experience is made possible by the Histopad, a touch screen with augmented reality technology.

The MuséoParc d'Alésia is also banking on these new realities with a redesigned scenography to immerse visitors in the history of the siege of Alésia in 52 BC. But also to allow them to discover the archaeological discoveries of successive periods. The programme includes touch screens as well as workshops for handling objects from these periods. Excavation campaigns are still being carried out on the site and the experience should be enriched as time goes by.

The Verdun Memorial has also enriched its cultural offer since the summer of 2021 with a virtual reality device. Visitors can now discover Verdun before, during and after the fighting thanks to a virtual reality headset. They can thus move around in 360 degrees in the landscape of the fighting, going back in time as the conflict evolved. It is also possible to see the transformation of the site up to the construction of the Douaumont Ossuary and the Memorial. This new device is completed by interactive multimedia terminals which present contemporary aerial images where the traces of the war can be seen in the landscape.

The National Museum of Natural History in Paris was in fact the first French cultural property to devote a permanent room to virtual reality. Called "Le Cabinet de Réalité Virtuelle", it offers a unique immersion into the heart of evolution. With for instance reconstructions of dinosaurs and other species that inhabited the Earth at that time. A similar device is used at the British Museum in London, where visitors are transported back to the Bronze Age thanks to virtual reality headsets.

At the Sukiennice Gallery of the National Museum in Krakow and at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, a simple smartphone allows visitors to experience a highly immersive and original visit. Indeed, thanks to augmented reality, the works of art come to life in the first exhibition and dinosaurs appear on the screens as you visit Canada.

Increasingly immersive experiences

Helmets or glasses are not necessary to immerse oneself in a work of art or a world. Culturespaces has demonstrated this through its many sites, including the Carrière des Lumières (Baux-de-Provence), the Atelier des Lumières (Paris) and the Bassin des Lumières (Bordeaux). These sites are presented as centres for digital art and immersive exhibitions where the visitor does not just look at the work but is completely immersed in it. The works come to life and scroll across the walls to the rhythm of the music, plunging the spectators into an almost dreamlike world. In the same vein, the immersive exhibition 'Beyond Van Gogh' opens this year at The Graceland Exhibition Center, Memphis.

Sight is often the only sense used during a cultural visit, but smell can also be at the heart of the experience. As demonstrated by the exhibition 'Sensory Odyssey' at the Muséum national d'histoire naturelle in Paris. This project is the result of a collaboration between directors, museographers, scenographers, engineers and developers, neuroscientists, visual artists, perfumers and sensory special effects creators.

The Digital Chapel of Le Puy-en-Velay, built in the 18th century and located on the road to Compostela, has found a new digital and tourist vocation during the summer of 2021. Designed with the help of the Futuroscope teams, this attraction takes visitors on a flight in the company of Alice to meet Alec, the giant guardian of the legends and secrets of the department. A second life for this historic building which offers an original setting for a digital journey.

The Domaine de Chaumont-Sur-Loire is home to an Arts and Nature Centre in one of the wings of its castle, which has recently opened a permanent digital gallery. This new space is a continuation of the installations presented since 2012 around digital creation. To inaugurate this gallery, the Centre commissioned the Italian artist Quayola. This creation, called Evening Effects, immerses visitors in a unique experience.

Video games take over museums

In 2016, the Royal Museum of Mariemont in Belgium created a video game called "The Passer", specially designed to introduce young audiences to its Egyptian collections. Using a tablet, they must help the Sun to complete his cycle by fighting other deities who seek to prevent him from doing so. Throughout the visit to the museum, the objects on display come out of the showcases in 3D and reconstructions of ancient settings are mixed with virtual battle scenes.

The Musée de l'Armée in Paris is also offering an innovative experience in partnership with the video game developer Ubisoft. Indeed, a tour based on the famous game Assassin's Creed was launched in 2018 to allow visitors to survey the Invalides from a new angle. Fans of the game were won over, as were non-gamers. The operation was a great success as all tickets were sold out in less than two days and 3000 visitors took part in the experience in less than two weeks.

In Spain, the Prado Museum has taken the experience a step further by creating an island based on the video game Animal Crossing: New Horizons. The island allows you to visit a miniaturised version of the museum, but also to visit the Quinta del Sordo, the country house where the painter Francisco Goya lived. The museum completes this virtual tour with a total of five itineraries which, through videos recorded in the video game, show the works and put them into context. Players can even download and save the works on display in the virtual museum using QR codes.

The Louvre has also collaborated with Nitendo to develop the Nintendo 3DS Guide: Louvre application. This application includes 600 photographs of the works of art exhibited in the museum, 30 hours of audio commentary and 400 photographs of the museum's rooms, some of them in three dimensions. Several itineraries are offered, but users have the option of creating customised itineraries.

Guided tour with a chatbot

Present in almost all areas of customer relations, it is therefore not surprising that virtual assistants are integrating the cultural sector. They are obviously not intended to replace a real guide, but chatbots can answer the most common basic questions.

The Anne Frank Museum in Amsterdam, for example, has developed a conversational agent, designed in the image of Anne Frank, in collaboration with Facebook Netherlands, which works on the Messenger application. The software is useful for preparing a visit beforehand, in particular by providing information on the timetable and allowing the reservation of an admission ticket. It also allows you to ask questions related to the theme of the exhibition.

Some fifty cultural venues around the world, such as the Fondation Louis Vuitton, the Grand Palais, the Théâtre du Châtelet and the Centre Pompidou in Metz, have adopted the Ask Mona chatbot. A free chatbot, which is used via Facebook Messenger, advises on cultural outings such as ideas for exhibitions, museums or monuments to visit. People can also use it during their visits by starting a conversation on Messenger, Mona will inform them and answer their questions.

The Museum of Modern Art in Buenos Aires is taking the concept one step further by offering its visitors the opportunity to interact with artworks via a chatbot in 2016. The museum's first conversation partner in this process was the sculpture "Bio Cosmos" by Emilio Renart.

Revival of lost works and sites

New technologies allow for feats that were previously unthinkable. It is now possible to reconstruct sites that no longer exist, due to time or war. As well as works that have disappeared or been damaged over time.

The Arab World Institute has thus designed an entirely digital exhibition aimed at resurrecting the thousand-year-old sites of Palmyra, Aleppo and Mosul, destroyed during the war. Visitors experienced a virtual journey through time and space that allowed them to discover the history of the Arab world from antiquity to the present day.

The Acropolis Museum in Athens was able to complete a full reconstruction of the Parthenon frieze. It can now be seen thanks to a new museum application that also collects photographs and descriptions of all the frieze blocks now kept at the Acropolis Museum and abroad. It is possible to explore the frieze through four thematic sections: The Parthenon, About the Frieze, Explore the Frieze and Thematic Tours. The project is a collaboration between the Acropolis Museum, the Acropolis Restoration Service and the National Centre for Documentation and Electronic Content.

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