Virtual Reality in Museums: a New Hype or a Simple Necessity?

What do we know about this trend for now and how has it spread worldwide so quickly? In this blog post, we will share details of using VR technology in museums and provide the pros and cons of such an innovation.

The rapid development of VR technology and its smooth integration into different industries have turned our life upside down. Virtual reality goes mainstream and brings about numerous benefits. The announcements of new VR headsets launch make users all over the globe excited.

2020 turned out to be an important year for the entire technology sector, namely for VR technology. It’s quite fair to say that the Coronavirus pandemic period became a turning point for the tech industry. Bored consumers all over the world looked to escape the boredom of Covid-19 lockdowns and the industry’s giants were competing fiercely to deliver products meeting the customers’ needs and demands.

Museums have pivoted towards digital during 2020. Was it just a whim or a necessary measure? Let’s figure it out!

VR technology allows people to get completely immersed in an interactive adventure, transforming their view of the world to a certain extent.

Bringing collections to life with Virtual Reality

VR technology provides visitors with an unusual experience of total immersion in an exhibit. A lot of museums are actively embracing this innovation and offer virtual museum tours. It may sound mind-blowing and confusing, but in fact, the concept is simple. It aims to place the user inside an experience. It can be interactive or take the form of 360-degree video bringing scenes to life. With VR, curators can put objects in context and show their true scale and change the perspective of viewers.

The Covid-19 pandemic has altered everything in our life, and the way we explore culture too. Still, VR innovations have bridged the gap between the need to stay at home and the wish to keep on exploring the world of art and culture. Museums got hit hard during the stay-at-home mandates. Once overcrowded with visitors, the halls were suddenly empty. That’s why most museums resorted to new technologies offering public VR museum tours. These experiences are available either for free or for a fee for museums to continue making revenue.

Applying VR technology in museums makes discovering culture more accessible for various people. For example, people with mobility issues can now enjoy exhibitions from the comfort of their own homes without any limitations. VR transports visitors to collections on the other side of the world while they do not even need to go out.

For those who worry that VR is likely to stop visitors from attending exhibitions in person, we want to say for sure that such experiences will not take over completely. Visitors still go to museums seeking the emotions only real objects can give. VR is not used to replace the already existing model, but to enhance it and bring in significant advantages.

We have gathered several examples of museums benefiting from VR technology. Check them out:


The museum launched an immersive VR experience ‘Mona Lisa: Beyond the Glass’, exploring the Renaissance painting as part of its Leonardo da Vinci blockbuster exhibition. Visitors can discover the masterpiece through interactive design, sound, and animated images available in 5 languages.

The National Museum of Natural History in Paris

The museum started its first permanent VR exhibition back in 2018. Wearing VR headsets, visitors get fully immersed in the exciting journey and discover the links between species, viewing a variety of creatures up close and to scale.

Museum of Modern Art in New York

To get over the Coronavirus pandemic and make people keep on exploring culture and art, MoMA started hosting regular VR museum tours focused on specific themes or artists.

The British Museum

Various exhibitions to any taste take place in London’s famous museum – from ancient artifacts to modern art. To make it more accessible to the general public, The British Museum partnered with Google Arts & Culture. This enables visitors to take VR museum tours using their phones or computers. These virtual tours cover both the outdoors of the museum and the interior collections.

Peterson Automotive Museum

The museum in Los Angeles worked jointly with Microsoft HoloLens in 2017 to create a new exhibition. As the result, visitors were able to enjoy an exciting VR exhibition and interact with a classic American sports car, the Ford GT40, seeing it up close. While learning about the history of the cars, people could also hear the roar of the engines and the sounds of tires racing around a track.

It’s fair to say that enhancing museums with VR saved these institutions from decline. It brought about a new thrilling experience to the museum space. VR technology has one more time proven to be beneficial in different industries. Now curators use VR in conjunction with their existing tools. VR does add value by, for example, giving an ability to create a realistic first-person perspective. However, like any other technology, VR has a few drawbacks, too.

Cost. This one may be quite critical. VR equipment as well as the design and management of VR programs can cost a fortune. Expenses depend on numerous factors. Take VR app development as an example. The process is specific and time-consuming. It takes developers to pay considerable attention to optimization for the app to function smoothly on standalone devices. It is also necessary to consider the occasions of broken VR headsets.

Simulation Sickness. Some users face this issue, especially during their first experience with VR. They describe it as unsettling or nausea-inducing. Symptoms can include headaches, eyestrain, disorientation, vertigo, and even vomiting, that is why one should be careful with VR technology as it involves a kind of disconnect between the physical body and the virtual world that the mind is immersed in.

Despite all the controversies related to VR museum tours, this technology makes culture and art accessible to everyone. It doesn’t stop people from attending exhibitions in person but rather enhances the museum experiences if implemented correctly and thoughtfully.

VR provides industries with a wide range of great opportunities and promises an unpredictable yet exciting future.

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