Stay up to date, and subscribe to our weekly newsletter. 

Virtual & Augmented Reality

 In the last few years, museums have been using augmented and virtual reality in different ways to engage audiences. Virtual reality in museums can be used in three different ways:


  • A. As an artwork

  • B. As an added experience that provides additional material and unique experiences to visitors in the gallery or online.

  • C. As a tool that takes the museum beyond four-walls by allowing users to step into an exhibition virtually. This is mainly used for learning and archival purposes.


Broadly speaking, the usage of VR has increased within the museum not only as a tool to engage visitors but as an artwork. One example is Carne Y Arena, which is a multi-sensory VR experience in-which visitors are transported to the US-Mexican border. The experience is by the director Alejandro G. Iñárritu. The experience won a special Oscar and is touring around the world, it was first exhibited in Fondazione Prada. Other institutions that have displayed VR artwork include the New Museum, Saatchi Gallery, MCA Chicago, MASS MoCA to name a few. Artists including Jeff Koons, KAWS, Marina Abramovic, Anish Kapoor have created VR works.



Examples of  VR Experiences that transport users to another place:


Tate Modern: Modigliani Exhibition, 2018

The Modigliani exhibition at the Tate Modern recreated Modigliani's studio in Paris. The experience was created to enhance visitors in-gallery experience by virtually entering the artist’s final studio.


MoMA: Body's Isek Kingelez Exhibition, 2018

The experience allowed visitors to enter Ville Fantôme, one of the artist’s large-scale city sculptures and experience it from different viewpoints.

The Jewish Museums: Pierre Chareau Exhibition, 2016

The VR experience allowed visitors to enter the architect’s studio and enter spaces Chareau built or designed.​

"The goal should be for the hardware to disappear, so that the visitor can be fully immersed in the content, whether that’s imagery, a story, or information." 

- David Whitemyer, The British Museum, Six Tips For Making Virtual Reality 

Case Studies



Case Study: Barnes Foundation

The Barnes Foundation created 360-degree photography experience of the Barnes collection galleries onto VR headsets.  The foundation stated “we needed the foundation of guiding principles to build an effective learning strategy, and to establish staff and audience rapport. Teaching had to be rooted in the interests of library audiences and the common elements that bind us, not in our differences.” They created their experience based on educational tenants. Before starting the experience they asked “could we meet our communities where they are, facilitate deep connection, and honor the very core of where this institution began? Our answer was to create a mobile program of VR headsets, combine it with a live teaching team, and utilize neighborhood libraries to connect with our communities.” The program had a 31% return rate measured by those who were engaged at the library and went after to the Barnes field trips. 80% represented first-time visitors. An additional 14% represented visitors who had not been to the Barnes in more than two years. The aim of the program was to engage populations reflective of Philadelphia. The model for this program is based on the Museum’s K-12 education plan where educators travel to public schools to introduce students to the collection ahead of their visit to the Barnes. An important lesson learned was that “the simpler the VR experience the better” the Branes Foundation “made a choice to let participants guide their own experience — nothing fancy, just 360-degree photography with hot spots, so people could wander,” which aided to their success. Read More


Case Study: Serpentine Gallery: Virtual Reality & Architecture

The Serpentine Gallery used virtual reality in-gallery for visitors to experience a Zaha Hadid architectural drawing in 3D and later placed it online for users who were unable to visit to view. As of January 2019, the VR experience had over 15 thousand views. Architects are also now using VR to allow stakeholders to experience the building before it is built, the Orange County Museum in California is one example of many in which architects have used such technology. Read More


Case Study: Shedd Aquarium  

These 360-degree videos weren’t the only opportunity to connect with the living world. In fall 2016, Shedd learning specialists conducted 27 after-school sessions at five Chicago Park District locations. Participants explored the diversity of aquatic life through hands-on activities, small-group work, discussions, and presentations, all led by Shedd’s team of passionate learning specialists. During workshop sessions, participants were introduced to three aquatic environments: the fresh waters of Illinois, the Amazon River and coral reefs of the Philippines. They examined how humans interact with the varied ecosystems, making specific connections to amphibians in conjunction with Shedd’s Amphibians special exhibit. Introducing VR headsets into Park Voyagers directly aligned with the program’s mission: inspiring and empowering kids and their families to explore Chicago museums. What better way to do this than to immerse them in an exhibit through a 360-degree video?

The experience had the most impact for kids whose parks did not participate in the family field trip to Shedd because it gave them a “real-life” experience inside our exhibits that might spark the desire to visit and explore with their families. It also sets them up for that moment of, “Hey! This is where I was when I was using the headset!” while exploring the aquarium.
Read More



Case Study: Google Art, Sackler Gallery D.C.

Take this immersive tour and learn about the dynamic history of the Peacock Room, the renowned decorative interior by American artist James McNeill Whistler. Follow the room’s transatlantic journey from England to America and explore its evolution as it moved from private homes in London and Detroit to its ultimate destination at the Smithsonian’s Freer Gallery of Art on the National Mall. Read More


Case Study: The Pushkin Museum of Fine Art

The virtual reality experience was created by the museum to help all participants in the process to visualize what the museum will be after its reconstruction in 2025.  Read More


Case Study: The Science Museum (UK)

The Handley Page VR was the first project by the Science Museum Group’s Digital Lab. The Handley experience brings to life the aircraft displayed in the mathematics gallery to demonstrates mathematics in action. Read More


Case Study: The Franklin Institute

The Franklin Institute uses VR headsets to allow visitors to deeply connect with their exhibitions.


The Institute designed a virtual reality library on topics related to their mission including Space, Planet Earth, the Human Body, Technology, Physical Sciences, and Global History. The library allows visitors to dive in and learn about things they are interested in. Read More


Case Study: Denver Museum of Nature & Science

The Denver Museum of Nature and Science set up a virtual-reality arcade. Read More


Case Study: The Smithsonian’s Hirschhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden

The Hirschhorn created a virtual reality of Kusama’s infinity room mainly to allow guests who are not able to physically enter the infinity room. This allowed visitors in wheelchairs -who were previously not able to experience the room- the chance to view it. Read More


Case Study: LA Philharmonic

The LA Philharmonic created an experience in which users were able to view the orchestra playing Beethoven’s fifth symphony. The VR goggles and other equipment were put aboard a bus, dubbed Van Beethoven, and sent out to tour the county through October. The aim was to engage with new audiences and allow them to experience the Philharmonic. Read More


Case Study: Dulwich

Young patients at King’s College Hospital, London, were the first to visit Dulwich Picture Gallery in virtual reality via the new Cardboard tour


Experience the Gallery, wherever you are, using our Virtual Reality tour. Built for affordable Google Cardboard VR technology, the app lets you experience the Gallery's Permanent Collection in three-dimensional virtual reality, bringing the Gallery to you through the App. Read More


Case Study: American Museum of Natural History: Swimming with Giants, An Unseen Oceans Experience

As part of the “Unseen Oceans” exhibition, the American Museum of Natural History commissioned an online virtual reality experience in which users are able to dive deep into the ocean to see the hidden world of water animals. Read More


Case Study: Natural History Museum, VR experience with Sir David Attenborough

The Museum will feature in an interactive virtual reality (VR) experience commissioned by Sky VR and hosted by Sir David. Read More


Further Reading:


  • The British Museum: Ancient Egyptian (Article 1, Article 2, Article 3)

  • WONDER 360: Experience the Renwick Gallery Exhibition (Article 1)

  • Courtauld Gallery (Article 1)

  • SANSAR: The Art of Burning Man, Smithsonian (See More)

  • Metropolitan Museum of Art: Small Wonders: The Virtual Reality Experience (Article 1, Article 2)

  • UCL: Grant Museum (Article 1)

  • Saatchi: We Live in an Ocean of Air (Article 1, Article 2)

  • American Museum of Natural History (Article 1, Article 2)


Hashtags to Follow: #ARVRinEDU #MuseumVR



Follow us for news on VR & AR in museums. A selection of Tweets related to VR & Ar below.

  • Grey Twitter Icon