We all heard the distressing news of the Notre-Dame de Paris being fiercely damaged by the fire that lasted for 15 hours. The cathedral restoration is expected to last for 20 years or more.

The major challenges of the restoration are the lack of in-detail visualization and engineering plans of such a complex historical building as well as the resources that the cathedral was made of.

Luckily, most of the art and artifacts of Notre-Dame de Paris survived; however, there were other precious pieces of art that didn’t make it without damage.

Surprisingly, one of the most precise cathedral visualization sources became a well-known video game - Assassin's Creed Unity - with its most iconic structure, Notre-Dame de Paris, which turned out to be a one-to-one cathedral replica.

Thanks to an Assassin's’ Creed Unity artist, Caroline Miousse, who spent several years exploring the live cathedral and then taking 5,000 hours to build a virtual version of it, the restoration architects will be able to refer to the virtual copy to bring the cathedral back from the ashes.

Whether it’s fire or natural aging of a structure, the ancient history and world’s heritage is slipping away with the time, and it’s wise to use modern computational resources to preserve the historical assets for future generations.

Why digitizing artifacts?

There are at least four reasons why you may want to secure the world heritage in a virtual museum:

  1. Have an extensive database of virtual replicas of real artifacts and buildings just in case.

  2. Save the historical and social knowledge in a never-aging flexible environment.

  3. Improve the quality and services of a museum by leveraging modern technology.

  4. Enhance museum’s experience using level design, photorealistic 3D animation, gamification, and social sharing.

What is a virtual museum?

A virtual museum is a digital entity or application that simulates, complements, and enhances the characteristics of a traditional (physical) museum.

A virtual museum is not only a home for full digital replicas of real objects preserved for education and learning but also a place to witness exotic assets in a unique way leveraging the power of modern technologies.

Today, a virtual museum is a simple 3D walkthrough which allows you to navigate within the actual museum online such as the Louvre Museum. Most of the art in the museums is interactive and displays information about the asset on click.

Even though people have done a great job creating virtual tours and slideshows, developers often ineffectively transfer a real location into a digital world and lose the true potential of a virtual museum.

Instead, a virtual museum should be treated and constructed as a full-functioning application to uncover its greatness.

Unleash the power of a virtual museum

With Unity or Unreal Engine, a virtual museum can be developed to serve multiple users allowing for content segmentation, better user experience, tracking opportunities, and monetization.

When built as an application, a virtual museum is able to transform the experience of a physical museum into a digital environment providing more exclusive services that go beyond just a database of images on a website or device.

Within the virtual museum app, users are not only able to see the world’s heritage and history but also interact with it on multiple perception levels, especially in the case of  a Virtual Reality (VR) museum.

Give users more freedom to interact with a virtual museum

[image: Assassin’s Creed, Ubisoft ®]

A physical museum strictly forbids visitors to interact with the historic relics and artifacts as well as pieces of art due to their fragility and tenderness.

However, in a virtual museum users might be able to get more freedom apart from merely looking at the museum’s assets.

For example, in VR a user can take a statue, spin and rotate it, read the description of an artifact, explore the relations, cross-connections with this artifact such as events, major historical characters, and books.

One of the major benefits of a VR museum is that it’s an application. Game designers and marketers are very familiar with applications and they know how to aspire the needed traction to the application as well as engage existing users.

Turn a museum into a gaming experience and interest millions of users

How attracted are people to history and art? Not as much as they might be.

A virtual museum can give the deserved interest level to a particular culture, historic timespan, artifact, etc.

Can you imagine a guide saying: “Collect all of the gothic statues in this museum and get 5% off your next purchase?” Me neither. But that might very soon become a reality.

In a virtual museum, you can implement a gamification solution significantly boosting the experience of visiting and interacting with your virtual museum

Even without gamification, you can simply implement social functionalities like sharing buttons to help users exchange their experiences with each other.

Both gamification and simple sharing buttons will help your virtual museum gain organic traffic. The more people you attract, the more you can engage them with your museum and educate them on various topics such as history and art. Apart from that, it’s simply entertaining and unique.

Improve the museum’s spectrum of services

As an app designer, you are able to track different activities within the app and offer the most related experiences to your users.

For example, you’ve found that a user is most interested in American history. You may target them with the most related products or services that are connected to American history and can potentially be of interest to a user.

From freely accessible and downloadable content to private online courses, event invitations, books, and other products, a virtual museum gives you a lot of space for creativity and monetization opportunities.

What technology should you use to build a virtual museum?

Our choice would be Unity or Unreal Engine. Both development engines have extensive capabilities delivering photorealistic and real-time rendering opportunities for an app like a virtual museum.

Depending on the type of your application either web, mobile, or desktop, you may look into having a decent server, secure database, APIs, and frameworks needed to connect everything together.

Since the virtual museum app is mostly about 3D modeling and level design, the major cost will be bound to having a professional team of 3D artists.

During the business analysis stage and technology stack choice, it’s vital to find the right balance between third-party tools and your own solutions as the cost may vary greatly.

Our team has over 10 years of Unity full-cycle development and 3D assets creation, so we know how to come up with the most optimal solutions for your business.

Conclusion

A virtual museum is really about having an accessibility point where everybody who is connected to the network is able to experience the birth of our universe and its development where humans are playing one of the most active roles.

Apart from that, a virtual museum is about introducing a new concept to the museum business while finding the right balance between the importance of cultural, educational, and technological advances.

For any questions related to 3D assets for virtual museum or full-cycle virtual museum development, please contact us here.

Author: Philip Volna

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