3D scanning and virtual reality as pedagogical tools for museum training

Our understanding of the contemporary museum is changing. Gone are the days of looking at the museum as a stuffy institution with glass cases, stanchions, and “don’t touch” signs. Today’s museums have become dynamic, interactive, and family-oriented centers of exploration and learning. Reflecting on the social change that surrounds them, museums have evolved alongside technology. Moore’s Law is a prediction and forecast that technology only moves forward, and doubles every year. Whether it is the number of circuit boards or memory, computers and technology are always pushing forward. This push is impacting museums across the world, calling for the integration of digital technologies in museum programming to offer new and exciting exhibitions, access to collections, and program incentives to their patrons. With these exciting changes to museums, there is a growing disparity between the application of technology in museums and what they provide as pedagogical tools for museum work and training. Many museums integrate new technologies, such as 3D scanning and Virtual Reality (VR) into exhibition and collection management work, digitally knocking down the four walls of the museum exhibit and bringing artifacts into the living room. While these technologies may stimulate museum patrons and speak directly to connecting museums to our current digital age, museums have failed to employ these technologies as pedagogical tools for museum training and project development. This thesis presents the use of 3D scanning coupled with Virtual Reality (VR) as a pedagogical tool for training future museum professionals - university museum studies students. Through the creation of a 3D previsualization of the exhibition space at the Valene L. Smith Museum of Anthropology, at California State University, Chico, university students will have the capacity to intuitively and interactively develop new museum exhibition designs and layouts using virtual reality. The thesis articulates the development and applicability of using this previsualization technology to enhance knowledge of 3D scanning and VR and provide immersive learning experiences for university museum studies students. The thesis project demonstrates the utility in current digital technology as pedagogical tools to boost museum studies educational programs, training, and the future of museum development.