New Twist | VR gives new perspective on museum experience

Making the young generation appreciate art, culture, and history could be very challenging in the midst of all technological advancements happening in this time and age.

Most young people find it dull and boring to visit museums as they would rather watch movies, play games or chat with their friends on their smartphones in the comfort of their bedrooms.

To remedy this problem, Ayala Museum director Mariles Gustilo thought of a strategy to engage young people and adults visiting the museum.

“Some say, I have seen the dioramas here already and we need to learn from that comment. So, we tried using technology for higher engagement,” Gustilo told Philippine News Agency (PNA) in an interview.

With the help of I AM CARDBOARD, Gustilo infused virtual reality (VR) in their presentation of important historical events in connection to their objective to deepen the museum goers’ appreciation for it.

I AM CARDBOARD is a provider of high quality 360 degrees content for business in the country.

“Our history is filled with human moments, so VR helps people understand it better since it gives you the ability to be in the moment when that particular part of history happened,” she said.

Last month, the Ayala museum gave the stories of Emilio Aguinaldo and Andres Bonifacio a VR treatment to get people immersed in their legacies which helped shape Philippines as a nation.

The stories included the Cry of Pugad Lawin, the Tejeros Convention, the Trial and Execution of Andres Bonifacio and the Declaration of Philippine Independence.

Gustilo told PNA that they started contemporizing the museum’s dioramas in 2017. At first, the museum tried the basic augmented reality treatment where visitors see movements as they place their smartphones over a diorama.

“It’s like when you put your phone on Cry of Balintawak, you will see the cedula flying,” she said.

Afterwards, the museum virtualized the martyrdom of Jose Rizal on his birthday last year.

Gustilo explained that it takes six months to a year for their whole team to finish a project as it includes a lot of editing and consultations to ensure the content’s accuracy.

“We must not only learn from other museums, but from movies and games as well to make everything exciting. In fact, one girl visitor told me that she won’t manage being Rizal after looking at the diorama in VR, isn’t that being hooked in somebody else’s shoes?” she said.

I AM CARDBOARD general manager Emil Mananquil told PNA that VR gives viewers the free reign to look around and know not only the thoughts of the important characters in the diorama but also the opinions and reactions of the ordinary people surrounding the character.

Mananquil said the entire VR production process can be likened to an indie film production, except for it is shot and delivered in a different way.

“It is like creating a movie in 360 degrees perspective, there is a shooting. The video is saved and the tools of delivery are the goggles and the headphones for an immersive experience,” he added.

When asked if VR could make it easier for the young people to learn more about history, Mananquil said it could be the more appropriate technology for them to learn the subject.

“The younger generation is born in the Internet age so this is nothing new to them. They’ll find it as something normal to consume so it is how they learn unlike us from older generation that we just adapt to it,” he said.

According to Gustilo, the museum plans to virtualize the remaining dioramas every year or every two years depending on its budget and the kind of technology that would be available in the coming years.

“Also, we’re still checking with Doctor Ambeth Ocampo because we wanted to identify which events pushed our nation forward. The discussion on that takes time with our scholars, consultants and staff. We have to be strategic,” she added.

Citing the technologies used in museums abroad, Mananquil told PNA that the future of Philippine museums is mixed reality — a combination of augmented and virtual realities.

“Imagine 360 degrees content like this and your reality when you look around me, there are added elements to it. In fact, there is a theory that MR might become the norm in the next five to 10 years and become part of the things we consume on a daily basis,” he said.

Bringing museum closer to people

Emphasizing the museum’s commitment to reach out to people, Gustilo said that their team continues to find ways to engage museum goers especially the young people.

“You have to keep on reinventing yourself and be active on social media and connect to people through dynamic programming with the use of music, social media and technology. It is like giving the young and the old the reason to make art, culture and history become a part of their lives,” she said.

Just like other museum curators, Gustilo also noticed that most young people go to museums for the sake of having Instagram-worthy pictures and stories.

This doesn’t bother her at all, she said.

“It’s fine because for me the idea is just to get them to the museum. The intent may be shallow in the beginning but if you get some of them interested that would be better than getting none of them. At least, it tells me that going to the museum is part of their lifestyle,” she said.

Since Ayala Museum is a private museum charging entrance fees, Gustilo added that she sees social media or another museum as competition.

Hence, other museums are free to replicate the technology Gustilo’s team has started in Ayala Museum.

“My competition is the mall outside, coffee shop or other places where these young people might spend their money on. The fact that they come here for whatever reason, they’re already making art and culture as part of their lifestyle and that tells me that they’re already in the right direction,” she said.

The Ayala Museum also launched a free mobile app this year which provides updates on the monthly events conducted in the museum. — Ma. Teresa Montemayor (PNA)

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