The COVID-19 outbreak has led to the unfortunate closing of non-essential services. This includes museums. The hallways of the past are no longer littered with curious minds and eager feet but rather, they remain empty and hollow. Luckily, visitors can still go on tours from their sofas. Museums in Pensacola are allowing their visitors along with their potential visitors the option to still visit the museum through a different medium. Virtual tours are being made available to the public and it’s a great way to beat the boredom and learn something new.
The University of West Florida Historic Trust staff created new historic virtual tours for its T.T Wentworth, Jr. Florida State Museum 3rd Floor Exhibit, Lessons in Ink, and its 2nd Floor Greetings from Pensacola exhibit. Visitors can also explore the Old Christ Church and Pensacola Museum of Art which includes Bless Your Heart, Steam 2020, and the Members Show. Exhibition designer at UWF Historic Trust, Richard Rodriguez, stated that the museums closed to the public on March 16. Some exhibits only opened a few days before the shutdown. This encouraged him to pitch the idea of creating virtual tours.
Rodriguez said that it was met with positive reactions and everyone seemed to run with the idea. Within the week, they could publish the first set of digital content. The virtual tours are perfect for those who are stuck at home and who would like to take a sneak peek at the exhibits. The virtual tours allow the visitor to navigate through the exhibit and interact with the paintings by clicking on it. They will then see a display screen pop up containing more information about the item. This is a good way to tease visitors to physically visiting the museum when it opens again.
According to Rodriguez, these virtual tours are not just walk throughs like one would see on street view nor are they tours that would easily bore visitors. They have clickable information, hotspots, and close-ups of artwork at the art museum. The history museum highlights even more information and interpretation of the exhibit. This is just one of how virtual reality is playing a role since the coronavirus outbreak. It is not a passive experience for the visitor but a fully immersive one where the visitor can interact with the items they see.
Rodriguez expressed his concern about the coronavirus outbreak and said that it is hurting museums a lot because they are closed for a very long time. He stated that they are fortunate to be part of the University of West Florida. He pointed out that even though they are feeling the financial strains, the staff members are excited and motivated to develop digital content for the public and to maintain it so that it can still be used when the museums open again. Rodriguez mentioned that he hopes it encourages people to visit the museums more often when everything goes back to normal.
15 April 2020