Making Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality a Reality for Smaller Museums

Lightning Talk

Friday, April 05, 2019: 11:00am - 12:30pm - Grand Ballroom: Lightning Talks

Rich Bradway, Norman Rockwell Museum, USA

In October 2018, the Norman Rockwell Museum unveiled its virtual reality (VR) experience, Norman Rockwell in VR: the Four Freedoms, at The Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, MI, as part of its traveling exhibition titled Enduring Ideals: Rockwell, Roosevelt & the Four Freedoms.  

Conceived in the spring of 2016, when Rich Bradway, Director of Digital Learning for the Norman Rockwell Museum, attended the MW Conference in Los Angeles, it took almost nine months to translate the idea of a VR experience into an actual project, which would ultimately turn into a reality more than 18 months later.

The challenge of the project was finding the right group of artists, designers and developers to produce the VR experience.  Conventional design, interactive and production firms either did not have the experience needed to produce VR or were proving to be way too expensive for a relatively small museum to underwrite.  

It was not until Rich Bradway met Chuck Pyle, the Director of the Illustration Program at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, CA.  Chuck invited Rich out to the west coast to explore the idea of developing the VR experience using the talents of the University’s students.

This presentation explores how the pairing of a small museum on the east coast with a university on the west coast was able to produce a virtual reality experience on a relatively small budget, which has ultimately been showcased in a major traveling art exhibition across the United States and France.

The presentation will highlight the design and production process and how the students from different schools and cultural backgrounds came together to work on this unique project.  

It will also illuminate some of the challenges of incorporating a virtual reality experience into a Museum setting, particularly in ramping up staffing to support the experience for Museum patrons within the galleries, and how work continues to extend the experience beyond the walls of the Museum.