While virtual exhibitions date back to the early 1990s (for example, the Web Museum in Paris was founded in 1994), the V-MusT.net project coordinator, Sofia Pescarin, says that her team found that most projects of this sort do not last longer than three years. “The main problem was the sustainability of the technology. We decided to create a community to solve this issue and to provide a vision for the communication of our heritage,” she explains.
According to Pescarin, there is a “great potential when the technology goes together with the narrative to create a real experience for the visitor”. To reach this potential, the V-MusT.net project embarked on a series of initiatives to develop training for museum curators and to aid the exchange of expertise.
“We created several schools that are connected, each one on a topic that is really relevant for virtual museums. In Sarajevo, the school is dedicated to digital storytelling; in Cyprus it is about digital acquisition. In London, it is focused on 3D modelling, and so on,” she explains.
The project is proving to be very popular. “In 2012, we were astonished to receive more than 150 requests for the mobility grant [which will help potential participants with accommodation],” says Pescarin. “We wanted to focus on young researchers that were willing to get experience in different institutions,” she adds.
One of the international partners is the Faculty of Electrical Engineering, University of Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. As part of the project, the partner initiated a school focused on the development of digital storytelling for virtual museums, such as the virtual presentation of an early Christian basilica close to Mostar, in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Dr Selma Rizvic, associate professor at the University of Sarajevo, says that the project was a “great opportunity” to “gather the knowledge and experience of 18 partners coming from several countries in an extraordinary joint achievement”.
On the technological side, the project team assessed the options available in order to make connections between existing virtual reality experiences. “We are offering services for the community on the Internet. We are trying to give the opportunity to easily set up an online museum,” says Pescarin.
Moreover, the project team is organising a large-scale final digital exhibition expected to run from July to November 2014. ‘Keys to Rome’ will focus on Roman culture, especially on the importance of trade, combining virtual and physical exhibits from Rome, Alexandria, Amsterdam and Sarajevo. Pescarin says that the digital exhibition represents a big technological challenge, but that the experience of holding it will be invaluable. She concludes that the success of the project lies in the creation of tools, guidelines and case studies that could be used by those building their own virtual museums.