Physical and virtual show and tell

IT Innovation ChallengesGLAM Labs project based at Oxford University Museum of Natural History and the MRC Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine.

2019 GLAM Labs round

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Physical and virtual show and tell: Visualising specimens up close and magnified that are normally behind glass


Technologies such as virtual reality (VR) and 3D printing allow natural history material to be investigated and presented in new ways. We want to explore and evaluate how these technologies might work for visitors in the context of learning and visitor experience in the Museum.

In this GLAM Labs project we will create an ‘experience station’ in the Museum to provide visitors with access to VR models of specimens that they can manipulate using their ‘virtual hands’, supported by digital annotations and interpretation. A touchscreen built in to the kiosk will also allow access to other digital content created by the Museum that is not currently available to in-gallery visitors.  This station will be designed so that it can be used as ‘self-service’, but it will also serve as a base from which regular Spotlight Specimen ‘show and tell’ sessions can be run by staff. These facilitated sessions will allow staff to use 3D printed models (and specimens) related to the VR models available in the headset component of the station.

This work would dovetail with another stream of research that is about to commence at the Museum, in partnership with the University of Warwick. A postdoctoral researcher based at Warwick’s WMG unit will undertake interdisciplinary research looking into science engagement and learning through the use of different visualisation techniques for museum material.


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