Title:Exploiting the Potential of 3D Navigable Virtual Exhibition Spaces
Authors:Cristina Cerulli
Publication:MW99: Museums and the Web 1999

The paper is mainly concerned with the exploration of the potential of virtual, internet based, exhibition modes based on connectivity of the Web and on the peculiar spatiality of virtual environments. The narrative sense of the curators make the objects of the exhibit acquire much of their meaning. This applies to both physical and virtual Museums although, because of the intrinsic differences of physical space and cyberspace, the modes in which this narration is developed have to be different. In the virtual realm, the move from the objects of a collection to the meanings of an exhibition does not come only from linear juxtapositioning, grouping and sequencing of the objects but from hyperlinks with other objects and from the interactivity between the institution and the public.

The paper will also deal with issues related to the development and implementation of 3D navigable exhibition spaces on-line. To provide a theoretical background to the virtual galleries design specific issues on the design of virtual environments will be addressed, regarding, in particular: navigation, orientation and interaction. In addition a prototype of a three dimensional virtual Gallery that experiments with the concepts of virtual Web based interactive environments and how they can relate to on-line exhibition spaces will be presented. The project was developed abstract virtual Gallery for the Gallery of Modern Art in Glasgow (GOMA)that does not attempt to reproduce or mimic the existing physical Gallery in its architectural Form and modes of exhibition. The designed prototype is now being implemented and tested.

The interactivity features of VRML 2.0 worlds will be looked at. Amongst them there is the possibility to let the users reconfigure the virtual space which opens up a whole new set of possibilities for Museums on-line spaces. This feature could be of particular interest for an existing museum that could:

* create virtual exhibits shared with other Museums, where the content of the exhibition are linked

* provide the users with store material and to ask them to curate an exhibition in the 3D VRML World. This will encourage a dialogue on curatorial issues between the museum institution and the (virtual) visitors.