During lockdown, more and more museums around the world have offered online digital tours: they can be virtual tours, or live guided tours. For many, with museums closed, these opportunities provide access to a world of content from the safety and comfort of their homes.
First of all, nothing is better than seeing art in real life in a gallery or museum. And even if you don’t like art, many of us love the exhibition experience. Everything from the artwork to the architecture, the coffee, the gift shop or the beautifully produced exhibitions are an experience that cannot be reflected by a Virtual Tour.
But, when you can’t get to an exhibition (thanks to the global pandemic!), a Virtual Tour makes a lot of sense.
In fact, on the other hand, some might say that nothing beats the convenience and interaction of a Virtual Tour. So how can virtual tours benefit museums?
As it is virtual, you will never have to stand in line.
But it’s not just the queues at an exhibition that a virtual tour can avoid. A virtual tour leaves out many other aspects of art exhibitions that we would like to avoid. You can also skip the queues to go to the ticket office, and of course there is no waiting in the gallery either.
No tickets are needed, there are no rush hours or peak times and a virtual exhibition is never closed for maintenance. A virtual visit to your favourite gallery is just a few clicks away and no queues.
Virtual exhibitions are not only free of queues. Crucially, they are also virus-free right now. Even if you could visit your favourite gallery or exhibition right now, how many people want to be in an enclosed space with lots of strangers?
We are all eager to get out and see each other and socialize, but for many gallery visitors, the risk is not worth it.
If you are staying at home, then a Virtual Tour is one of the best ways to “get out”, stop thinking about the news and appreciate something beautiful that, hopefully, you will be able to visit in real life ) when “all this is over”). There is no need for social distancing and yet Virtual tours are not only for the safety of visitors, but can also be an important part of staff safety if necessary.
Charge admission for special online events
One of the easiest ways to start generating revenue through digital channels is to charge a fee for digital events, just as you would for in-person events.
All over the world, museums have been very successful in starting up completely new and creative programmes, or adapting existing programmes to virtual formats.
Introducing a virtual membership level (or virtual membership benefits)
Another strategy for generating revenue through virtual content has been to create a new level of membership with a primary focus on virtual benefits.
A virtual membership level includes access to the museum’s private archive collection, behind-the-scenes tours and more.
Developing virtual courses
Courses can be essential sources of income for museums of all types and sizes. But while many museums may reopen their doors with reduced capacity for the general public, face-to-face courses are still generally restricted because of the difficulty of imposing physical distance and the associated risks. For this reason, launching virtual versions of your courses can be an effective way of retrieving conference material.
Thinking about merchandising
When a museum is successful in driving online sales, it not only improves its bottom line, but increases its reach by selling to a wider and more diverse audience and remains committed to its community by increasing the number of regular customers. Which products have the potential to make your museum more money? You need to balance the revenue potential of a product with the expense of selling it online. Consider how difficult it will be to photograph and add a product to your site. Will the product be difficult to handle and ship? T-shirts and hoodies are great candidates: they are easy to ship, give high margins and are definitely a great choice.
It’s a beautiful Sunday morning and you are going to visit a museum or an exhibition.
However, when you arrive at the door you realise that the gallery is not open until 12 o’clock. Either it is closed for renovation or it is closed for a party. Or you got the date wrong and the exhibition has already ended. With a virtual tour it means that the gallery is always open for you 24/7 and 365 days a year.
Geting closer to the artworks
With a Virtual Tour, the work of art does not get dirty, it is never torn down, it is vandal-proof. It is the only time you will visit a gallery or a museum and you will be encouraged to interact with art.
In many places, ancient monuments are threatened by the millions of visitors who visit ancient tombs every year. The colours and engravings do not fade with a virtual visit.
Having a Virtual Tour allows children to experience art they may never see in person. With an iPad and a Virtual Tour, they can learn something interesting and memorable about the artwork they have already seen, as a good Virtual Tour can combine audio, visual and technology in a format that children intuitively engage with.
Meet the artist
Well, the chances of meeting Picasso are pretty slim! But would you like to hear about art in the artist’s own words?
And if you combine short audio clips with a 360 degree experience, you can not only enjoy the images, but by listening to the story behind some of the paintings, you really bring the artwork to life. You can look at a painting and understand the story behind it.
How many times have you gone to an exhibition and listened to the artist in his own words? Even if the artist in question is a classic, an enthusiastic guide can bring a painting and an artist’s story to life and is relatively easy to do in terms of production. A great Virtual Tour does not have to be simply about 360 degree views. Audio is a fundamental part of a good Virtual Tour.
Nobody blocks your view
The Mona Lisa is the most visited painting in the world. Whatever your opinion about the painting, you should go and see it if you can. But most of Mona Lisa’s fans are waiting not only to see the painting but also to take selfies.
So you have to go to the front of the queue to see the painting. Although not all works of art are as popular as Mona Lisa, with a virtual tour you won’t have to fight for the best view. Every painting is there, in your hands and in front of you.