Physical and virtual show and tell: visualising specimens up close and magnified that are normally behind glass

Lead institution/dept: Museum of Natural History

Partners: MRC Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine and University of Warwick


Abstract: Technologies such as virtual reality (VR) and 3D printing allow natural history material to be investigated and presented in new ways. We want to explore and evaluate how these technologies might work for visitors in the context of learning and visitor experience in the Museum. We will create an ‘experience station’ in the Museum to provide visitors with access to VR models of specimens that they can manipulate using their ‘virtual hands’, supported by digital annotations and interpretation. A touchscreen will also allow access to other digital content created by the Museum that is not currently available to in-gallery visitors.  This station will be designed so that it can be used as ‘self-service’, but it will also serve as a base from which regular Spotlight Specimen ‘show and tell’ sessions can be run by staff. These facilitated sessions will allow staff to use 3D printed models (and specimens) related to the VR models available in the headset component of the station. This work dovetails with another stream of research about to commence at the Museum: a postdoctoral researcher based at the University of Warwick’s WMG unit (formerly Warwick Manufacturing Group) will undertake interdisciplinary research looking into science engagement and learning through the use of different visualisation techniques for museum material.