According to the International Council of Museums (ICOM), 90% of museums were forced to close following government announcements regarding the preventative measures against the COVID-19 epidemic. That represents over 85,000 museums worldwide. ICOM also estimates that 13% of these structures will not bounce back from this crisis without external assistance, i.e. more than one out of ten museums.
And yet during lockdown, many decided to introduce online tours and visits of their collections. A clever way to keep in touch with their audiences and to promote their exhibitions until the situation eases.
Is your museum still on the fence? Here are 3 good reasons to offer virtual tours:
A popular medium
Interactive digital media is nothing new. Indeed, the French Ministry of Culture recently reminded us that the first interactive terminal is celebrating its fortieth anniversary. Digital technology has become widely popularised among the general public, who now visit a museum’s website on their smartphones before going there in person.
Offering a virtual tour on your museum website is therefore a simple way to encourage people to visit the real thing. It is also an effective way to show visitors what’s changed in your collections or to promote new arrivals to encourage people to come for a first or return visit.
- Let’s take the example of how the Australian National Maritime Museum uses its website https://www.sea.museum and virtual tour:https://www.sea.museum/anmm_files/VirtualEndeavour/Virtual-Endeavour.html
- Or the Berlin State Museums: https://www.smb.museum and their online virtual tour: http://bode360.smb.museum/
Enhanced visibility for your museum
The key issue when it comes to the Internet is the visibility of your museum for its role in increasing the number of physical visitors. In addition to offering your audience a new experience, virtual tours have a positive impact on SEO, placing your museum in the top search engine results.
You can even post them directly via Google My Business and Facebook.
Here are some examples:
Simple and inexpensive
Captured from still pictures, a high-definition virtual tour can be easily created from any device (telephone, tablet or computer) using a set of photos compiled with dedicated software. You can also add a soundtrack as well as text and images for a more in-depth experience. The leading software on the market include: Virtual Tour by 3DVista https://www.3dvista.com/, Pano2VR by GardenGnome https://ggnome.com/ and Nodalview https://www.nodalview.com.
Although virtual reality displays are increasingly used, remember that 94% of your users view your online content on their smartphone (source Global Web Index). So make sure to use software compatible with the leading mobile browsers.
Lastly, if you have a limited budget, a simplified virtual gallery comprising videos, audio content and photos is always a good start and is the solution chosen by the Penn Museum and the VMFA for their .museum websites:
Virtual tours are set to become a must for museums, so don’t miss the boat!