INTERVIEW: 5 vragen aan Joël Kremer over het Kremer Museum

The Kremer Collection has been on display since October in the Virtual Reality Museum. A collection of more than seventy old masters. The virtual museum is a good example of VR/AR applications in a cultural and educative context. We asked Joël Kremer five questions:

1.Where did you get the idea?
We’ve always tried to be innovative and look at ways to use tech/digital to promote the collection. For me, that thought stems from my time with Google; I was always looking how I could use tech to do something beautiful/fun/good for our collection. It never was more than flat images on a screen. We partook and were frontrunners in everything: websites, apps, Google art projects…

But I would always come to the conclusion that, besides images and information, we didn’t really have anything to offer people.

To me, that wasn’t a particularly “sexy experience”, no matter how good an app or website may be. So investing money in online campaigns while we weren’t selling anything and were showing an unsexy experience wasn’t worth it to me. Until Facebook bought Oculus and all of a sudden 2, 3 serious names were operating in VR. Suddenly, there was a serious market for consumer VR. It was then that the idea popped in my head that building a museum in VR, provided it was done right, in a lot of ways could be more interesting than building a real museum… We’d discussed that a little bit, but it had quickly become a non-starter due to various reasons (not just the money!)

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2. Why did you choose Virtual Reality?
In addition to the abovementioned answer, VR offers nearly unlimited possibilities to tell the user a story, without having to be present as an expert or owner. You can put people in a completely different surrounding and show them anything you want them to see there, including digital layers, videos, interviews, holograms and so on. Additionally, you can have an unlimited amount of visitors in a VR museum; that’s a huge advantage compared to traditional museums.

That sounds funny now, in 2018, but in a few years that’ll be different.

And finally, building a VR museum, even a high quality one, is far more interesting cost-wise than a physical museum. Think of all the limiting/inhibiting factors that come with that (licenses, location, finances, construction delays, etc.) For a VR museum you do need a good builder, which we found in Moyosa Media in Assen. They are really skillful and pioneering guys in the area of AR and VR.

3. Which demographic are you hoping to reach?
It differs: on the one hand, of course you want to reach the art lover, but on the other hand, you also really want to reach those people who, for various reasons (money, politics, geography) perhaps could never go to a top museum in Paris, NYC or London: that’s a huge group! Finally, we’re certainly also aiming at youngsters; through our Mighty Masters program, for instance. With the programme we want to make art fun and accessible for school children around the world. We do so by sending them VR gear and offering them the museum as an experience for free.

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We’ve noticed that those kids love the experience and see it more as a game than a museum. Aside from being great fun, it’s also interesting to see that you can get them interested in art in that way as well.

The sky is the limit…

4. How are people responding to the experience?
I really can’t say anything but “super positive”. From museum directors to tech people and kids to people with no affinity for art: everyone finds it a special experience. So many things come together: the building that was designed by a famous architect, the feeling of VR and being in a hyperreal other world. Finally, also the super high resolution of the works in the museum, which enables people to study them in the greatest detail. What’s also special is the fact that the museum turns out to be somewhere out in space. This means you have to be careful not to fall of the edge when you’re peeking over it.

5. What do you think a museum visit will look like in the future (5-10 years from now)?
I think there will be multiple variants.

Physical visits will never disappear because nothing beats standing in front of a real Rembrandt.

Having said that, not everyone wants to always go into town, stand in line and then look at a Van Gogh portrait for 3 minutes while getting elbowed. A VR experience is the perfect solution to that. Additionally, I think that with the advent of AR (Augmented Reality) a lot is about to change when it comes to visiting museums. Think of smart glasses or devices: museums will be offering a wealth of rich content during a visit (and in VR). This will allow you to tell a story in a fun, original and educative manner. Think of digital layers with hotspots that light up while a BN’er (Dutch celebrity) tells something about the piece. Or the x-rays and infrared images of works that uncover a study that lies beneath the surface.