The Smithsonian American Art Museum is using VR to reach beyond the exhibit space - DC


Jul. 24, 2018 12:05 pm

The Smithsonian American Art Museum is using VR to reach beyond the exhibit space

SAAM made a current exhibit available in virtual reality. Through a partnership with Intel, leaders wants more works to be on view outside the museum.
The Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Kogod Courtyard.

The Smithsonian American Art Museum's Kogod Courtyard.

(Photo by Flickr user Tim Evanson, used under a Creative Commons license)

The Smithsonian American Art Museum is embracing virtual reality as it looks to make cutural offerings more widely available.

Through a pair of partnerships, SAAM is looking to expand access to its exhibits and digitize more offerings.

In May, the museum announced a partnership with Intel, in which the tech giant detailed plans to deploy technology that makes exhibits available in virtual reality, and add to the museum’s 3D capture capabilities for works and artifacts.

This week, the first signs of the partnership are on view. The Renwick Gallery’s current exhibition, titled “No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man,” is available in virtual reality through Sansar, a platform which hosts “social” VR content. Intel’s processing capabilities were a key contribution to making the experience available, according to SAAM.

Museums are embracing immersive tech like virtual reality as a way to offer more inside the museum. The partnership shows that it can also help cultural institutions reach beyond the marbled halls. On this front, SAAM has a bold goal of reaching a billion people within five years.

“I don’t fear technology usurping the importance of art and museums,” Stephanie Stebich, the Director of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, said in a statement. “I think technology can make museums and their collections even more inclusive, approachable, and dynamic.”


Putting the museum’s offerings in the digital realm can also help expand access to educators, Intel stated.

Ultimately, leaders hope to expand the tech to institutions across the entire Smithsonian.


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