VR enhances visitors' experience of GSA's plaster cast collection

A typical image seen in the VR set, photograph courtesy of GSA School of Simulation & Visualisation & ISO Design, 2019

A typical image seen in the VR set, photograph courtesy of GSA School of Simulation & Visualisation & ISO Design, 2019

How can we use creativity to encourage more people to visit museums and archives? Glasgow School of Art has been working on one possible solution, and last month launched Digital Laocoon, which uses VR and Augmented Reality technology to tell the story of Laocoön, one of the GSA’s collection of plaster casts that was damaged in the fire of 2014.

The VR/ AR experience brings the viewer right into the heart of one of the Mackintosh Building studios, where they encounter a life-size rendering of the sculpture. Walking around the space, the viewer’s experience is then augmented with historic images from the GSA’s Archives & Collections and specially made films that tell the story of Laocoön and how industry-leading techniques were developed to conserve it and other casts following the 2014 fire. The exhibition has acquired a special poignancy following the fire last June in which the plaster cast was almost certainly lost, but was originally developed in order to show how 3D technology can be used to increase visitors’ learning and enjoyment.

Is there anyone working on VR/AR here at BCU? If so, how might we use it creatively to increase students’ interaction with our own collections? We have a few plaster casts, but we also have other 3D objects and a large number of photographs. Could we use them to create stories of how life might have been for students a hundred years ago or more? Have you any thoughts on this?