Curating Culture: Romania’s Digital Museum

Posted by Elizabeth Alton on Friday, December 27th, 2013

Exterior of Romanian Digital Museum

A new digital museum in Romania is allowing guests to virtually view art and artifact collections from around the globe. It’s brought art, culture, and world class architecture to a small town in Romania best known for its archaeology. It’s a striking example of a rising trend: digital museums.

Cultural curation in museums has largely focused on assembling collections of art, historical items, and cultural objects, and developing an experience that helps visitors interpret their significance. But technology such as 3D projection, touch screens, and even 3D printing may soon be changing the roles of some museums. Instead of housing the actual objects, digital museums become the platform for technologies needed to explore collections at other museums around the world. In other words, some art museums may soon contain no art.

Interior of Pecica Romania Digital Museum

Pecica, Romania is the perfect example of a location that can benefit from this trend. The remote village, situated on the Mures Flood Plain, is a town best known for its history and its baking. But this won’t stop resident children, lifelong learners, and specific groups from visiting the Louvre or exploring the collections at the Met thanks to the new digital museum. Everything that happens will be done virtually, facilitated by the technologies described above. Flexibility is also a key benefit, and exhibits can be changed almost instantly without high costs.

The building where the museum is housed is a model for future digital museums. At just over 1200 square feet, the almost entirely green structure was constructed in five months for approximately $160,000. This fact alone can help circumvent the often onerous tasks of fundraising millions of dollars for more traditional museums.

Digital Museum Design

“The building rises naturally from the ground through golden spirals (the Fibonacci spirals) and crystallizes in a shape that, just like its muse, tries to set itself free from ‘the past burdens,’ striving to rise high,” wrote architect Claudiu Ionescu about his choice project design. “Its shape offers the visitor a feeling of aspiration, an aspiration not only of the building, but of life itself.” The building’s design was based on the Brancusi sculpture Miracle, and constructed materials were chosen to harmonize with the Flood Plain environment.

Technology at Romania's Digital Museum

The technology that’s packed into the space is impressive, including forty-five inch touchscreens and passive 3D technologies. Content includes exhibits from museums around the world as well as local information. One homage to the local culture includes a 250 year old bread baking oven (not virtual!) that can be explored. The museum also encourages visitors to learn more about the local region digitally by taking an exercise bike that guides them through a video containing visuals of the local landscape. More adventurous visitors can enjoy a 360 degree view of the Flood Plain from the roof.

3D Technology at Romania's Digital Museum

What’s most exciting about Pecica’s digital museum is that it’s a “proof of concept” project. Virtual museums offer a new way to conceptualize the role of the museum, moving from “house and interpreter” to connection platform. Undoubtedly, this style of museum will never replace world-class institutions and their collections. But it may offer an affordable, achievable window into these collections for people living in remote parts of the world that otherwise would never get to experience these treasures up close.

Image credit: Giz Mag

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