The Origins Centre museum in Johannesburg is using virtual reality technology to bring history to the home.

The Wits Origins Centre museum is turning to virtual reality to take the museum’s collection to the public.  The move comes as the country remains under lockdown due to the covid-19 pandemic.

The museum, based at Wits University in Braamfontein, has partnered with the Google Arts and Culture platform to give 360° virtual tours of the museum, using the Google Arts and Culture app. Google Arts & Culture currently features collections from over 2000 museums across the world.

“Things aren’t normal anymore and we are going to struggle probably to get people to come to museums and so we almost have to now take the museums out and make that a virtual environment or an interactive environment outside the museum,” said archaeologist and chair of the Origins Centre museum, Professor Amanda Esterhuysen.

Esterhuysen said that although she appreciates the authentic experience of visiting a museum, making use of technology to bring people to the museum will open-up a multi-layered approach to education.

“[Technology] opens up worlds that we would normally never have access to. It does open up major possibilities and experiences for people to be able to see things, even if it isn’t the actual object,” she said.

Tammy Reynard, a curator at the Origins Centre, told Wits Vuvuzela that Google Arts and Culture will provide the museum with a platform to host materials, but the museum will have complete control of what is featured on it.

Reynard said, “Google Arts and Culture sets up the platform, the museum has complete control over what they put up and Wits will still hold the copyright.”

Reynard notes that apart from the virtual tours, the museum also plans to feature images of the contemporary exhibitions, some of the museums archaeological objects will be on display, as well as 3D scans of the rock engraving archive on the platform

“We are also wanting to explore ways of connecting with other museums and having our educational content available online,” Reynard said.

The platform is still under development and is expected to be launched in the coming months. Museums such as the Origins Centre have remained closed under lockdown restrictions which have been imposed because of the covid-19 pandemic, halting operations, and physical visits to the museum.

FEATURED IMAGE: The Wits Origins Centre Museum in Braamfontein is using virtual reality technology to take its collections to the public. Photo: Akhona Matshoba.