VU – UTNews & agendaNewsVirtual Reality offers new perspectives on (Dutch) colonial cultural heritage

Virtual Reality offers new perspectives on (Dutch) colonial cultural heritage

The (Dutch) colonial cultural heritage has many hidden layers and many museums now actively include perspectives that have been largely overlooked or distorted in the past. Virtual Reality (VR) technology, especially recent Social VR, can offer people powerful new perspectives and experiences and contribute to overcoming long-standing biases. Within the research line ‘Inclusive Interactive Heritage’, researchers from the Smart Societies Coalition have been working closely with curators and other staff from the Rembrandt House Museum to recreate the exhibition ‘HERE: Black in Rembrandts Time’ in VR.  At a recent meeting in May, they presented their results.

The exhibition aims to provide a respectful, individualised perspective on people of colour in the Netherlands positioned in the 17th century and now. The VR version allows the exhibition to stay open for an interested audience. It also gave the researchers the opportunity to reliably measure user experiences and attitudes. During the visit, the representatives from the Rembrandt House Museum were given a firsthand glimpse of the VR exhibition. The discussions highlighted the importance of co-designing VR interactions with museum curators and staff from their education department, to ensure that the technology indeed facilitates the intended narratives of the exhibition.

Personalised access to cultural heritage

During the meeting, Delaram Javdani Rikhtehgar presented findings of her study on personalised access to cultural heritage, involving 31 university students and employees who explored the ‘HERE: Black in Rembrandts Time’ exhibition, while their viewing behaviours were tracked. Delaram’s study showed that visitors tend to seek information about the historical and social context of the artwork, the artist's intentions, and the stories depicted within the artwork. Interestingly, users’ viewing behaviour, such as the time spent on looking at a specific painting, can indicate their level of interest. Building upon this discovery, a conversational agent will be developed to guide the visitors and deliver tailored information based on their individual interests.

Rikhtehgar, D. J., Wang, S., Huitema, H., Alvares, J., Schlobach, S., Rieffe, C., and Heylen, D. Personalizing cultural heritage access in a virtual reality exhibition: A user study on viewing behavior and content preferences.

Read the interview with researcher Claudia Libbi

The published study can be found here.

Interested in our research? Please contact Shenghui Wang