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Friday, May 17 • 2:00pm - 2:30pm
(Electronic Media) From Immersion to Acquisition: An Overview Of Virtual Reality For Time Based Media Conservators

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As Virtual Reality (VR) artworks are acquired and become part of museum collections, the long term care of VR hardware, software, and media will need to be carefully considered. Virtual Reality is not a narrowly defined medium. A VR work can include combinations of different hardware and software components that each may present different needs for long-term preservation. Additionally, the nature of one VR work can be drastically different from another in terms not only of its content, but of its technological makeup. A VR work can can be video art, software-based art, an installation, an interactive experience for users, or a combination of any of the above. As such, museums may face challenges when bringing such complex works into their permanent collections. In anticipation of the challenges conservators may face when virtual reality works enter museum collections, this presentation aims to provide an introduction to VR technologies, including both hardware and software, and discuss potential preservation considerations. To begin, we will present an overview of the current state of Virtual Reality technologies and considerations for the acquisition of works built with these platforms. We will look at the three major platforms that are used to develop VR projects. This includes WebXR, an emerging standard that uses web-based technologies. We will also discuss the popular proprietary gaming platforms that are commonly used to author VR experiences: the Unreal engine and the Unity engine. In addition to software, the current hardware platforms will be examined, including mobile VR, Oculus, and the HTC Vive. Considerations for the long-term care and conservation of each platform will be discussed. In addition, the differences between 360 video and interactive VR projects will be articulated, along with the unique preservation considerations for each medium. We will also demonstrate a project at SFMOMA where WebXR technologies are used to document 3D models in the collection. Finally, we will conclude by presenting an acquisition template for VR works that conservators can use as a guideline for the collection of these works.

avatar for Savannah Campbell

Savannah Campbell

Media Preservation Specialist, Whitney Museum of American Art
Savannah Campbell is currently Media Preservation Specialist, Video and Digital Media at the Whitney Museum of American Art as part of the Media Preservation Initiative project. She has previously been a Fellow in Magnetic Media Preservation at The Standby Program and has worked on... Read More →
avatar for Mark Hellar

Mark Hellar

Owner, Hellar Studios LLC
Mark Hellar is a technology consultant for cultural institutions throughout the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond and owner of Hellar Studios LLC. Mark has worked on media conservation projects at SFMOMA, MoMA and the Solomon Guggenheim Museum on the conservation and care of their... Read More →

  Specialty Session, Electronic Media