Back in 2009 I wrote a Master’s Thesis on Virtual Museums and exhibitions. A lot have changed in the field since I wrote my thesis , and a lot had changed in the field at the time I wrote my thesis too. Virtual exhibitions had gone from virtual game-like walk-through exhibitions on media such as CD-ROMs to online thematic and multimedia integrated exhibitions. There were still walk-through exhibitions but the walk-through elements were generally not as much the core of the exhibitions as a context in which the other elements of the exhibitions were placed – a room in which one were supposed to click around to get to the content of the exhibition.
Today, and since the introduction of tablets such as the iPad and new techniques such as html5 and css3, Virtual Exhibitions have become more interactive and again moved over to be locally placed on devices through for instance apps. A lot of money have been invested in to virtual exhibitions apps for for instance iOS, even though the iPad platform (a popular choice for virtual exhibitions) still have quite a limited number of users. Even though a lot of money are invested, many apps are still offered for free, and function as a way to get the collections of a museum available to the public, but (perhaps mainly) as a marketing tool. Virtual exhibitions apps have become a way in which museums stand out and differentiates themselves from other museums. Museum apps does, however, not only include virtual exhibitions but also various games and more informative apps.
Big online projects like for instance the Google Art Project have gained a lot of attention as well, but function perhaps more as a useful tool rather then a virtual exhibition. Having taken art history classes myself, I had great use of the service and the high-resolution images of the various art-pieces.
Virtual exhibitions and apps have increasingly become a way of building a brand, but even though virtual exhibitions and apps have become more common, there still is no good definition of what a virtual exhibition is. Museums like to say and market that they offer virtual museums even though it may be a matter of something simple such as a photo slideshow – that is unfortunately something that hasn´t changed.