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by Sofia Villegas
12 October 2023
UK museums to join Metaverse in ‘transformational’ programme led by the University of Glasgow

VR looks to enhance the visitor experience

UK museums to join Metaverse in ‘transformational’ programme led by the University of Glasgow

UK museums to join Metaverse in ‘transformational’ programme led by the University of Glasgow

The University of Glasgow (UoG) is to lead the Museums in the Metaverse project – an extended reality platform allowing users online access to cultural sites across the UK.

Funded by Innovative UK, the project will also be the first-ever opportunity for curators to use virtual reality tools to build content and tell stories combining objects stored across the world.

George Freeman, Minister of State at the UK Department for Science, Innovation and Technology, said: “This £5.6m investment through our Innovation Accelerator program is helping the University of Glasgow to build on its reputation for extended reality research, while in turn boosting opportunities for learners and curators and promoting UK innovation and culture around the world.”

By partnering the university with the immersive technology platform Edify as well as Historic Environment Scotland (HES) and National Museums Scotland, the initiative hopes to explore models which support sustainable economic and cultural growth

David Mitchell, director of cultural assets at HES added: “Scotland has pioneered digital applications in the cultural heritage sphere and this project will continue to build on this. This project will help to augment the physical experience through technology but will enable a different type of interaction with our cultural heritage in the future.”

Neil McDonnell, programme leader at the UoG, claimed virtual museums will “enhance” not “replace” the experience of visiting museums, making multiple sites accessible to all.

Martin McDonnell, chief executive of Edify, added: “The implications of the project for the sector are transformational: incredible access to hidden archives and collections for professionals and researchers; extraordinary digital tourism experiences of previously impossible reach and scale; learning and teaching featuring uniquely contextualised material; and treasure troves of rich new digital artefacts for content creators.”

The platform also aims to tackle constraints like the limits on objects that can be displayed in museums. According to McDonnell, it is estimated that more than 90 per cent of collections have to remain in storage.

Maria Economou, professor of digital cultural heritage at UoG's Hunterian – Scotland’s oldest public museum – said: “The access to state-of-the-art photogrammetry equipment will be invaluable for the long-term development of The Hunterian’s digital capacity and resources for our increasing range of audiences.”

However, McDonnell said the deployment of the technology has faced numerous challenges, including the cost of developing virtual environments and the “lack of technical skills” needed to create the 3D content. 

Scotland is home to more than 500 museums, with fewer than 50 per cent being free of charge.

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