Second Life has its first art museum that is a complete copy of a major real-world institution. The Dresden State Museum in Germany recently opened a sim that is pretty much the spitting image of its Old Masters Picture Gallery. (Teleport directly.) They claim that all 750 pieces in the collection are available.


It is impressive, for sure, and it definitely feels like a museum. Ceiling-to-floor wall-to-wall canvasses in darkish rooms with a single two-sided wooden bench in the middle. Wired claims that they’ve even modeled the museum’s trash bins. (What’s missing are the crowds, and that’s a good thing.)

But I have to wonder. Is this an added value to the museum experience? There are plenty of museums in Second Life (here’s a fave) and most all partake of an architecture that is suited to movement in SL (easy vertical movement, sparse use of walls, etc). It seems to me that older museums are hard enough to navigate in real life without imposing such constraints on virtual movement. How many Old Masters-type museums can you think of that don’t make you scale dozens of stairwells? This is discouraging in SL.

The larger point though is about choosing a medium. The web is actually very good at presenting images catalog-style like you’d encounter in a museum gallery. No crowds, good-to-great information, search, high-res zoom — all web based. It seems to me that a 3D museum space needs to afford more than just image viewing. I won’t say much more except to note that I suspect that some of the functionality you’d hope for in a virtual world-based museum is lacking in the Dresden gallery because of technical limitations of Second Life.

Still, a good project and one to keep an eye on. The museum outsourced this build to Anshe Chung and Co. so you know they are serious about it.

Of course, I’m not unconcerned with these matters. Bookmark this post to tell me how hypocritical I am in a year.