Between Art, Data, and Meaning – How can Virtual Reality expand visitors’ perspectives on cultural objects with colonial background?

Museums play an important role in guiding people’s societal perceptions of cultures and histories. Large parts of historical collections, particularly in the Netherlands, are a legacy of the colonial past. There have been increasing efforts to make sure that museums not only acknowledge, but also reveal to visitors the multiple (e.g. cultural) meanings and context that are attached to these objects (i.e., polyvocality).

But how can museums achieve this? By bridging Computer Science, Communication Science, and the Humanities, and extending the groundwork of the Pressing Matter project, this NIAA project will investigate new ways for visitors to interact with (colonial) objects in virtual reality. We will develop a “satellite” exhibit in virtual reality of an actual exhibition, hosted at the VU, and assess how it affects visitors’ interaction with colonial objects, and might diversify visitors’ views on the colonial past, by applying a mixed-methods evaluation, including qualitative (in-depth interviews), and quantitative (survey, tracked user) data.