Intel and The Smithsonian partner with Sansar to bring museum experiences to everyone.

Linden Lab’s Sansar just announced a partnership with Intel and the Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM) to provide virtual access to the museum’s Renwick Gallery collections, as well as its research and educational resources.

“With Sansar, we hope not only to make the museum experience more accessible, but to also let people curate their own experiences and share their unique perspectives with the world,” says Jason Gholston, Head of Sansar Studios, which last year launched similar initiatives such as the Art of Star Wars exhibit to help expand the reach of unique and exclusive art collections.

The Smithsonian’s goal in doing this is to expand the reach of the Institution’s collections to a billion people over the course of the next five years. This means making its museums’ objects available to the public across a wider range of mediums, including immersive domains.

“Technology has the potential to achieve new goals and ambitions for museums and galleries,” says Raj Puran, director of immersive technology business development at Intel. “Immersive technologies, like virtual reality, unlock new and exciting ways to experience art and exhibitions. Fans can now check out the No Spectators collection from their own home.”

With Intel’s advanced data-processing on the Sansar Social VR platform, the Smithsonian has been able to accelerate the digital 3D capture, preservation, and distribution of artifacts in its collections, so that students, educators, and the broader public can virtually access and engage with the museum’s collections from anywhere in the world. The hope is to provide a new kind of viewing experience and transform the museum business, from the creation, to the consumption of educational content.

“I don’t fear technology usurping the importance of art and museums,” says Stephanie Stebich, The Margaret and Terry Stent Director of the Smithsonian American Art Museum. “I think technology can make museums and their collections even more inclusive, approachable, and dynamic,” she adds.

The first phase of the partnership will focus on the No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man exhibit, which features large-scale works of art from the event on view for a limited time at SAAM’s Renwick Gallery. No Spectators captures the spirit of creativity and community, and has been digitized through hours of careful laser scanning and photogrammetry.

Anyone in the world, either on a desktop computer or via Sansar, can now experience these artworks for themselves. So far, 17 pieces of art have been digitized for this experience (the first phase is the first floor of the Renwick Gallery, in Washington, D.C.). 12,490 photos were used to generate the 3D models of these pieces. It took the team a total of 1,050 labor hours to complete VR-ready models of the artwork.

“This is an innovative new way to access educational content from the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and to preserve art for future generations,” concludes Gholston. “We’re democratizing the museum experience one exhibition at a time.”

This is a really interesting use of immersive technology, seeing as the artistic installations at Burning Man are ephemeral (the event’s “leave no trace” policy sees amazing artworks ritualistically burned to the ground each year). Here we have a medium which would allow them to become accessible as VR experiences, giving those expressions of creativity a new and permanent home in the virtual world for those unable to attend the annual festivities.

Image Credit: Smithsonian