Title:Virtual reality at the British Museum: What is the value of virtual reality environments for learning by children and young people, schools, and families?
Authors:Juno Rae, Lizzie Edwards
Publication:MW2016: Museums and the Web 2016

This paper will concentrate on an exciting and increasingly emerging technology, virtual reality (VR), and detail our examinations of the value of virtual reality environments for learning by children and young people, schools, and families at the British Museum. As part of the digital learning programme at the Museum, the Samsung Digital Discovery Centre (SDDC) provides family, teen, and school visitors with drop-in and bookable activities. The SDDC recently incorporated VR technology into its programme for the first time in a two-day family event. The development of the event as well as critical learning from the project and future plans for the technology within the SDDCs digital learning programme will be discussed.

The Virtual Reality Weekend held in the British Museum on August 8–9, 2015, was the first time VR devices had been used to engage families with British Museum collections. Visitors were able to explore a virtual reality Bronze Age site, where they saw three-dimensional scans of objects placed in their original setting. Participants were able to explore multiple interpretations of how the objects might have been used in the past across three digital platforms.

As the British Museum was one of the first museums in the world to incorporate VR technology into its learning programme, this paper will contribute to sector learning as this emerging technology potentially becomes increasingly prevalent, offering some of our key learnings from the project, as well as highlighting the importance of working closely with internal departments and detailing the benefits of using open source digital assets. It will conclude with evaluation outcomes as well as the results of trials of the use of VR technology for learning purposes across our audience segments, including with teens and secondary school students.