A Museum is most of the time a place where exhibits are shown out of their original environment, and context is brought by labels, scenography, introductory texts.
It is especially the case for historical and archaeological artefacts, that had a specific use beyond their esthetics. But the Archeologie Gemeente Den Haag chose to take a different approach to giving visitors context about their work and collection.
As the institution in charge of the archaeological and cultural heritable of The Hague in the Netherlands, Archeologie Gemeente Den Haag does not have a physical exhibition space of their own but is in charge of the excavation and conservation of various objects from all eras, from Antiquity to the Middle Ages.
Archeologie Den Haag started using 3D scanning to make the archaeologists’ work easier: It allowed a 360° manipulation of fragile objects as well as a reconstitution of full excavation sites that is more precise than drawing and photographs.
Sharing those 3D models of objects and sites was a later step. Indeed, Archeologie Den Haag started by making the models available to download on Sketchfab. To give those models their context back, Archeologie Den Haag then built a virtual museum around them. This virtual reality venue has 3 levels, each one allowing to learn about archeology and history in a way: the first level shows a classical museum with photographs and 3D objects, the second level shows a reconstruction of a prehistoric house, and the third level is a mini game in which players can excavate an archaeological pit.
While Archeologie Den Haag also organizes workshops and conferences for kids and adults in various cultural venues around The Hague, including their own headquarters, but this virtual museum is a very unique way to go beyond explaining the audience what archaeologists do and to bring them to experience it thanks to 3D reconstitutions that were initially meant to help the archaeologists.
It does on some level remind one of the digital extension of the Staedelmuseum, in which visitors can explore the museum at different times thanks to the museum scientists’ work.
Taking a similar but reversed approach, Project Mosul lets Sketchfab users create and upload 3D models of destroyed artefacts and buildings of cultural heritage in northern Iraq thanks to pictures taken by experts and tourists.
Tech and especially virtual reality reconstitutions prove as a great way to make scientific research more accessible and we cannot wait to see more projects that allow to popularize work that is usually hidden and available for experts only… or to have the public help scientists on a wider scale.