Should All Museums Have a Metaverse Presence?
Culture, NFTs, X-Article

Should All Museums Have a Metaverse Presence?

Museums and art galleries have made metaverse incursions. Why does it make sense?

Museums and the metaverse’s futures seem to be interlocked. Museums have had to adapt to all iterations of the Internet, and have done fairly well. From just providing content, to having a presence on social media to interact with users and potential visitors, all the way to the sale of digital tickets with the emergence of QR codes. That is, content, interactivity and e-commerce; some of the key tenets of what the Internet has been so far. With the appearance of the metaverse, museums have new opportunities and threats. As it is, screen use has been experiencing constant rises. Online gaming is an increasingly popular way of spending time with friends. It’s not only the emergence of a new technology. It’s also about the trends that this new technology will rely upon, that will compel its adoption on a massive scale.

As it is, the arts are already being disrupted by Web3 thanks to NFT technology. Artists can create (mint) NFTs so that so that collectors now have a digital asset to hold on to. Not only does blockchain technology allow for these new types of digital assets. They also enable a new type of artform, as they take advantage of smart contracts capabilities. Dynamic NFTs are what happens when a smart contract makes a piece of art change and mutate as it interacts with the contacts of a wallet, or as it gets sold. It also has enabled the explosion of generative art, where artwork is produced by a system (AI, or an algorithm) that is in turn created by the artist. Now there’s a world where NFT art is growing constantly, where many NFT art marketplaces have emerged, and users hang out more often in digital spaces. The metaverse is being developed and will be backed by blockchain technology. That is, a place to hang that at the same time can be a marketplace. It is not difficult to imagine that museums and art galleries should have a metaverse play thought out, and already start executing such a strategy.

It is worth asking oneself about what is going to bring the metaverse to a museum experience. It’s one thing that people maybe don’t go to museums as much, due to other leisurely activities competing for a person’s time. That still doesn’t necessarily mean that museums have to go all in on this. The reality is, there is potential to enrich visits to museums, cultural sites or exhibits. A metaverse experience can bring into context the significance of the physical equivalents of paintings and make the visit more appealing. For a site of cultural and historical relevance – like a castle – a metaverse experience can reproduce the events that occurred there and provide something that a real-life just can’t.

In addition to this type of enhancements to a visit, real-life museums and historical sites have limitations in capacity and maintenance requirements. Metaverse experiences can alleviate such pressures to sites, while still providing an actual visit to a global audience. With Web3 capabilities, patronage can emerge so that the cost of maintenance that a museum has to pay can be taken care of more easily. In exchange for said patronage, an NFT or token can be issued that could grant special perks for the holder.

Tourism and leisure, as well as arts, are the subject of experimentation through NFTs. Ticketing industries and events are being disrupted and incorporated to Web3, thanks to NFTs and the metaverse. In order to not lose out and become irrelevant, museums and historical sites have to do some experimenting of their own.

What can an arts institution do in a metaverse experience?

Some museums are looking to digitize the experience of a visit, and have all the artwork and items recreated in NFT format. The head of contemporary art at the State Hermitage Museum, Dmitry Ozerkov, said that museums will have a “digital twin” as they venture further into the digital realm, Web3, and – more concretely – the metaverse. This focus on a metaverse foray makes sense for the Hermitage, as it is the largest museum in the world by gallery space and houses over 3 million works of art. This value is of strategic importance, and has to be protected in the cyberspace. What better way than producing an immersive experience surrounded by all of these invaluable tokenized works of art?

Another thing that can be done in a metaverse setting is special exhibitions that are conceived for this medium. Take for instance the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) in London. To celebrate the impact of the book by Lewis Carroll, the V&A had a year-round exhibition of a reimagined Wonderland. A VR experience was available for users at home, while those that visited the museum had a shortened version of the experience. This immersive experience had all sorts of contributions from different arts. Like gaming in the creation of an immersive Wonderland, and illustrations, to really take us back to Victorian times.

Making education more engaging and special privileges is also a way that museums can use the metaverse. As immersive experiences, they can make sure that those that want to learn something new can really experience the process behind a painting and the techniques used. Or how an event unfolded at a given site. For example, 3.O labs teamed up with Lobkowicz castle in Prague, Czechia, to create the Non-Fungible Castle exhibition. Although it was a physical exhibition that exhibited NFT art with centuries-old paintings, that seemed to open the doors for further collaborations with other museums and cultural heritage sites. Indeed, one of the founders of 3.O labs is Heinrich Donatus, a member of one of the ruling families in Germany prior to 1918, and owner of the Bueckeberg castle near Hannover. The costs of maintenance are too high to cover, so he thought to bring the metaverse to help preserve the monument.

Joining together the concepts of a DAO and the metaverse is a good idea to crowdsource the maintenance of Bueckeberg castle, and give members special access to the building. And because it has deep connection to WWII (it still has bullet holes, in order to serve as reminder of what transpired in those walls), with the building being in hands of Americans and British to use as headquarters, some of those events can be re-enacted through metaverse technology.

There are several metaverses, and many ways one can choose to have a metaverse operation. Some museums might need to have an exact representation of what they are in reality, because it is an iconic architecture. A small art gallery may choose to go in a different direction, and not be a representation of anything that is known. Others might choose to use the metaverse for the purpose of an art installation.

SOPRG art gallery decided to invest in a parcel in the Somnium Spaces metaverse, because as it makes a play in the NFT art world, it is also evident that there is abundant benefits to be had in the metaverse. As it is, museums and art galleries will be two of the pioneers for metaverse mass adoption.

Article brought to you by the SOPRG gallery operating in Somnium Space metaverse – on behalf of the gallery – Milan & Gustavo.

Artwork by Cappelli Caterina

November 16, 2022

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