On the Road with VR (MCN 2015)

By Larissa Bailiffunnamed

November was a HUGE month for WoofbertVR. The public launch of our app featuring the Courtauld Gallery’s Wolfson Room (on Nov. 17) was of course our biggest news, but I also wanted to tell you a little bit about another meaningful event for WoofbertVR.

As an education content writer/strategist for WoofbertVR, I was in Minneapolis from Nov. 4-7, to attend the MCN 2015 conference and present a case study about how WoofbertVR is using immersive technologies to bring the art of museums into the classroom.

“MCN” stands for Museum Computer Network, an outdated acronym stretching back to the organization’s origins in 1967 when computers were the radically NEW technology. I know that in our 2015 world that’s a funny concept.  MCNs current tagline “advancing digital transformation in the cultural sector” more accurately describes its important 21st-century position and vision. Over 500 people attended this year’s conference.  Read about it here.

MCN’s growing group of constituents is creative, digitally-savvy, funny, fascinating, and smart. These are museum and heritage site professionals representing every aspect of the field—directors, curators, archivists, consultants, technologists, collection-managers, interpretative specialists, educators, graphic and exhibition designers, publishers–all the people who make the museum world go.

In addition to being asked to share our case study, the conference provided the perfect opportunity to get a number of our colleagues from institutions across the country into HMDs (head-mounted displays) and introduce them to WoofbertVR’s first app experience featuring the Courtauld Gallery. The feedback we received was very positive.

More than a few people’s minds were completely blown by being “transported” to London and with how “present” they felt in the London gallery. They were thrilled to zoom towards paintings to feel like they could pick up a bottle from Manet’s Bar at the Folies-Bergere or step into a Tahitian hut by Gauguin.

As a graduate school friend of mine reminded me during the conference, “our art history doctoral program did NOT prepare us for the digital realm, we are inventing it ourselves. It’s a brave new world.” Let’s not forget that the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s first Chief Digital Officer, Sree Sreenivasan– who employs a staff of over 70 people–was only appointed in Summer of 2013.

While the so-called “digital landscape” of museums hasn’t existed for very long, this rapidly-evolving, interstitial and collaborative space is now not only becoming pervasive but absolutely necessary for cultural institutions to engage 21st century audiences and keep pace with a seemingly instantaneous world.

WoofbertVR’s project to democratize art, and create immersive, educational art experiences in VR puts us right in the middle of this topical cultural conversation about how the Arts are interpreted, shared and consumed.

The conference opened with several 5-minute rapid- fire “Ignite Talks.” One of the most inspiring and hilarious presentations was given by digital strategist Chad Weinard, who offered a completely crowd-sourced slide-show. While wildly funny, Weinhard’s thoughtful and touching message was, essentially, that in this nascent digital field:

buy Gabapentin cod Individuals and individual institutions can’t do it alone: Museum staff need each other and we all need collaboration—among technologists, designers, curators, educators, artists—to cultivate this new and exciting terrain.

This MCN “Ignite talk,” and the many sessions and informal conversations occurring throughout the entire conference, were an important reminder and charge for all of us in the culture field to be brave, bright, and collaborative as we create experiences that foster meaningful connections, develop stories to deeply engage a range of audiences, and use technology to reach farther than ever before.

What an incredible period we are living in.

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