When people imagine environments custom-made for the metaverse, they think about social media platforms, video games, and similar modern concepts.
As a relatively old-fashioned element of the Arts and Entertainment landscape, museums don’t immediately seem like the most natural fit for something as futuristic as the metaverse. However, in a world where consumers have changed their behaviours based on pandemic restrictions and digital transformation, museum metaverses are becoming an increasingly appealing concept.
Following the pandemic, many Arts and Entertainment groups have been forced to rethink how they connect with their target audience. After all, people spend less time visiting locations in person, even after lockdown restrictions have been lifted. As a result, museums and their counterparts have become increasingly digitised. They’re leveraging everything from extended reality to social media and online content to connect with potential supporters wherever they might be.
Not only are existing museums creating metaverse-ready experiences for their audiences, but non-profit groups are also coming together to design metaverse native environments too.
The Rise of Museums and Art in the Metaverse
Following the pandemic, the metaverse has quickly become a critical tool for groups attempting to transform the future of arts and entertainment. In the music industry, experts predict metaverse landscapes will give artists and performers a whole new way to connect with their fans.
In early 2022, the Sandbox, a well-known metaverse environment, even announced a partnership with the Warner Music Group, focused on building the first music-themed world. Throughout other metaverse environments, new versions of art and entertainment experiences have begun popping up, with phenomenal success. Platforms like cryptovoxels have their own metaverse-native art galleries, where users can buy and own NFTs to showcase in their own virtual worlds.
For museums, the metaverse offers an opportunity to rethink traditional models, practices, and strategies for engaging with not only consumers but investors and creators. In traditional museums, there are significant restrictions on which items and pieces can be displayed at any given time. Physical spaces are limited by space, and different funding models make it difficult to provide consumers with a constantly-evolving selection of exhibitions.
Metaverse museums, on the other hand, are virtually limitless. Created in the blockchain, these spaces can create and host a rotating collection of work in digital formats without worrying about physical restrictions or how many people can attend a showing at any given time.
What Benefits Does the Metaverse Offer Museums?
The potential for metaverse museums, similar to the potential the metaverse holds for all forms of art and entertainment, is incredible. The digitisation of museum collections gives groups incredible freedom for how they connect with their audience and showcase pieces. In a traditional museum, a person can only look at a display from behind a glass shield.
In a metaverse museum, a visitor could try an ancient piece of clothing on their avatar to see what it might have looked like in context. Museums can use the metaverse to recreate entire environments or scenes, allowing people in the XR space to step into history and explore concepts from an entirely new perspective. It’s even possible to add contextual information in a range of different formats, from voice and text to video, to help make the experience more educational.
Unique virtual environments in the metaverse provide museums with an opportunity to not only continue reaching their existing audience when a physical visit isn’t possible but also attract new consumers and investors who may have avoided similar spaces in the past. With the metaverse, museums can gamify their exhibitions and transform otherwise “bland” experiences into fun, entertaining, and unique interactions for groups of all ages.
Unlike a standard museum, a metaverse museum doesn’t require consumers to travel to visit an exhibition. Anyone with an internet connection can get involved, viewing and analysing historical works more intimately than they could in person.
At the same time, metaverse museums open the door to new economic opportunities too. Rather than asking people to pay an admission fee at the door, museums can place a price for unlimited access to an app or exhibition within their metaverse environments. There’s even an opportunity for creating sales within the metaverse through the sale of NFTs for art pieces and works.
Users could view a piece in detail within the metaverse, then be routed to a marketplace where they can purchase museum-sanctioned digital versions. While they’re opening new doors for investment and funding, museums can reduce their total cost of ownership by reducing the amount of physical space they need to rent or hire for each exhibition.
In other words, the metaverse can make running a museum more affordable, lucrative, and impactful than any traditional environment.
The Challenges of Bringing Museums into the Metaverse
Countless groups have already begun to recognise the value the metaverse and XR environment might be able to bring to the museum landscape. There are various “metaverse native” museums available to explore today, such as the Musée Dezentral, Museum of Crypto Art, and the VOMA.
Of course, transitioning museums into the metaverse isn’t without its challenges. The level of technical know-how required to create a well-rendered and engaging 3D environment for a museum is relatively high. There are also costs to consider when it comes to renting land in existing metaverse worlds, such as Somnium space, or Decentraland.
At the same time, museum groups must carefully consider what a transition into the metaverse will mean for their physical locations and assets. How will critical historical artefacts be stored if they’re not displayed in a public forum but converted into virtual duplicates? Additionally, how will museums ensure the crucial artefacts they display are kept safe in an environment with limited regulation and security options?
Will the Future of Museums Be in the Metaverse?
It’s difficult to know for certain whether the metaverse will become the landscape for the museums of tomorrow.
There’s clear evidence already that museums can thrive in this digital environment – however, this doesn’t necessarily mean a transition to the metaverse will be right for every group. Museums interested in exploring this space will need to dedicate a significant amount of time and effort to building their communities within the metaverse and ensuring assets remain safe.
However, what we do know is the metaverse has limitless potential. For museums looking to reach a wider audience and unlock new economic possibilities, this environment could definitely offer a lot of value.