Success Story: Revisit past exhibitions of the Kirchner Museum

Museums help expand and enrich our knowledge and understanding of the world around us. How can museums today provide uninterrupted access to works of art without boundaries of place and time? How can they win visitor loyalty and attract new visitors despite the wide range of alternatives on offer? How do they create enthusiasm and stay relevant?

The Kirchner Museum in Davos has opted for an innovative yet sustainable solution, using HEGIAS technology to develop a virtual museum that allows visitors from all over the world to experience art digitally 24/7. In the article below, you’ll learn about this success story.

Art from the 20th and 21st centuries

The Kirchner Museum in Davos is dedicated to the art of the expressionist painter Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (1880-1939). The museum is a popular destination for art lovers from around the world who come to admire Kirchner’s works in an impressive collection of more than 1,500 paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints and textiles, and 160 sketchbooks. In addition, there are over 1,500 photographs, contemporary historical documents and a library on expressionism.

Digitization as a new opportunity for museums

In real life, the exhibition is long over, but in the virtual world it continues forever. In collaboration with the pioneer of virtual reality – HEGIAS AG from Zurich – a virtual museum was therefore developed that allows visitors to experience the works of Kirchner and other artists from the comfort of their own homes.

The virtual museum is an innovative addition to the museum’s program, offering visitors a unique experience that allows them to discover art in a new way. Visitors no longer have to travel and can freely move around the museum from anywhere in the world and view the exhibits from different angles. On a virtual tablet, users can directly find information on the respective exhibition objects. The virtual tour additionally enables completely new perspectives that are not possible in the real exhibition. For example, virtual visitors can immerse themselves in an architectural model and experience it on a scale of 1:1.

Opening hours also play no role in a virtual tour. The museum is open in virtual reality (VR) 24/7 every day of the year.

A virtual exhibition knows no bounds

The concept for the virtual museum was based on providing visitors with an immersive experience and preserving past exhibitions. In a pilot project, the progressive Kirchner Museum has had the special exhibition “Kirchner’s Sketchbooks “From Pencil Stroke to Hologram” digitized and prepared for VR by HEGIAS. A short time later, the exhibition “Theater of Survival. Martin Disler – The Late Years” was launched, which was present in the Kirchner Museum until the end of 2020 with impressive sculptures and paintings.

Visitors were then introduced to the third exhibition, “Europe on a Cure. Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Thomas Mann and the Myth of Davos”, which tells the stories of the Alpine world and the cultural life of Europe at the time of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

In April 2023, the fourth exhibition has already opened its virtual doors: “Gigon/Guyer. Kirchner Museum revisited”. For the 30th anniversary, this one is exceptionally dedicated to the building of the Kirchner Museum itself. The exhibition focuses on various facets of the museum from different perspectives: the story of the museum’s creation is told by various protagonists. Its spaces, lighting, materials, views and insights can be experienced in various ways, including original models and plans. In the virtual exhibition, the museum offers a unique opportunity to “zoom out” and immerse yourself in the architectural models on a 1:1 scale.

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Virtual exhibitions of the Kirchner Museum Davos

The extended museum experience

A guest of the Kirchner Museum Davos can already put on VR glasses on site after touring the current exhibition and go through past exhibitions digitally. This expands the museum experience and reduces the geographic and time limitations of a museum visit. And last but not least, completely new target groups can be inspired to visit museums, as the quote from a virtual visitor confirms: “I never actually go to museums. This is something completely different.”.

But even regular visitors to the museum and connoisseurs of Kirchner’s works have discovered entirely new facets in the paintings during the virtual visit. The paintings and sculptures are usually viewed in much more detail and closer than in the real world. This gives a whole new perspective on the unique pieces.

The future museum experience

But not only the past can be experienced in the museum, but also the future. With the dynamic solution of HEGIAS, new exhibitions are curated and thus the view of the future visitor is taken in real time and discussed with all stakeholders in a decentralized way directly in VR. This simplifies planning and makes it more efficient.

Furthermore, virtual tours can be conducted with participants from all over the world.

The virtual museum experience is one app download away

Have you become curious? You can download the app with the different exhibitions of the Kirchner Museum via the freely accessible Oculus Store by searching “Kirchner Museum Davos”.

Interview with Foundation Board President G├╝nther Ketterer

In the following interview, Kirchner Museum Foundation Board President G├╝nther Ketterer talks about his experience with the virtual museum and explains how it has helped the museum expand its reach, engage its visitors, and fulfil its mission of promoting art and culture.

HEGIAS: How does the virtual museum differ from a physical visit and what advantages does it offer visitors?

G├╝nther Ketterer: The virtual museum allows location-independent and worldwide access to an exhibition. Visitors can get an idea of the exhibition in advance, better plan and prepare their visit. In addition, digital spaces make it possible to recreate historically important exhibitions with artworks or in locations that no longer exist.

In addition, those interested in curating can curate their own exhibitions with works from the collection, try out comparisons and image compositions, and experiment freely. It is important, however, that the virtual museum does not replace the physical museum visit and the viewing of art, but accompanies it in a complementary way.

HEGIAS: What were the goals in developing the virtual museum?

G├╝nther Ketterer: On the one hand, the possibility to get an impression of the exhibition even from a distance, and on the other hand, to create a review of past exhibitions. The online viewing rooms introduced in recent years still have a lot of potential for a spatial experience of the artworks. And last but not least, archiving. An exhibition is not a mere collection of objects, but a staging of art in a space that has an effect on the visitors that should not be underestimated. To be able to depict this is one of the main goals of the virtual museum.

HEGIAS: How have visitors reacted to the virtual museum and what feedback have you received?

G├╝nther Ketterer: VR glasses are not yet so common, so a great many visitors are curious about the experience and quickly familiarize themselves with the technology. We received very positive feedback, especially on how close and accurate the works could be examined, which is not always possible in front of physical objects due to their state of preservation.

HEGIAS: How do you plan to improve and develop the virtual museum in the future?

G├╝nther Ketterer: On the one hand, we want to improve the visual rendering of the image, that is, the representation of the artwork, the colors and the brush stroke. On the other hand, we would like to attract other museums for a virtual implementation of their exhibitions and thus develop a network for virtual museums and art presentations.

HEGIAS: How do you see the future of virtual museums and what role do they play in promoting culture and heritage?

G├╝nther Ketterer: The future of virtual museums is a playing field for the reappraisal of exhibition history, for the global mediation of curatorial projects, and for barrier-free access to exhibitions whose visit is not possible for health, financial, or geographical reasons. By visiting the digital exhibition in advance, visitors can get an idea of where a further trip is worthwhile.

HEGIAS: How was the cooperation with HEGIAS experienced during the development of the virtual museum and what were the benefits of the cooperation?

G├╝nther Ketterer: The now three-year collaboration with Hegias has been very professional, friendly and innovative. HEGIAS has continuously considered and implemented our needs – it was and is a great pleasure to accompany the development of the virtual museum together with HEGIAS.

Are you also interested in a virtual exhibition or a virtual showroom? Then you’ve come to the right place at HEGIAS. Book a non-binding demo at our office in Zurich and benefit from the unlimited business opportunities of virtual reality.

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