Old Masters, New Tech

Donning an HTC Corp. Vive headset, the visitor steps into an orb-shaped virtual gallery with a painted blue sky, a trademark of Old Dutch paintings, and a web of walkways that seem to float in space. While most virtual worlds are created by game developers, the Kremer Collection’s new home was designed by architect Johan van Lierop, who was trying to capture the scientific and artistic vigor of the Golden Age. The experience feels exclusive, like a private tour, without other visitors elbowing in or distracting with chatter.


Here’s something which I find 95% massively exciting: a virtual tour around a superb collection of Dutch and Flemish Old Masters’ work. The Kremer Collection in the Netherlands has produced a genuinely impressive-looking ‘virtual museum’, which allows ‘visitors’ anywhere to pop on a VR headset and explore over 70 priceless works. 

In particular, I love the attention which has been paid to the design of the virtual museum space: rather than just a generic, perhaps ‘futuristic’ environment, the Collection has enlisted the help of an architect, who has created a space which reflects the artistic aesthetic of this particular stye of painting. This, coupled with the detail with which the works are reproduced; thousands of HD photos were taken of each one.

That 5% reservation I had? It may just be my mis-interpretation of one line in the article: “…an effort to recreate, and even improve upon, an actual museum visit.” This is a really strong and viable use of VR tech, which is opening a collection up to a vast and otherwise unreachable audience, and for that it has to be applauded. Logistics aside, though, I’m wary of any suggestion that it could in some way be better than seeing these treasures in person. 

VR definitely has a place in our sector – one that grows by the day – but it should enhance our experience of culture, never replace it completely. 

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