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Met Cloisters Debut Its First VR Experience in Conjunction with ‘Small Wonders’ Exhibit

Visitors can don a VR headset and explore a 3D rendering of a miniature boxwood carving.

The Canadian Film Centre’s Media Lab (CFC Media Lab), Seneca’s School of Creative Arts and Animation, and the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) will screen their virtual reality collaboration, Small Wonders: The VR Experience, for a special four-day limited-run as part of The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s new exhibition, Small Wonders: Gothic Boxwood Miniatures, February 24–27, 2017 at The Met Cloisters.

Visitors can don a VR headset and explore a 3D rendering of a miniature boxwood carving from the AGO’s collection. The experience is free with general admission, reservations required, and marks a significant first for The Met Cloisters–the integrated use of VR to enhance the exhibition experience. 

The exhibition Small Wonders: Gothic Boxwood Miniatures, which runs through May 21st, brings together for the first time some 50 rare boxwood carvings from museums and private collections across Europe and North America. The exhibition offers new insight into the methods of production and cultural significance of these awe-inspiring works of art. Small enough to fit in the palm of the hand, these tiny masterpieces depict complex scenes with elegance and precision. Without fail, they inspire viewers to ask how a person could have possibly made them, a question that can only be answered today and a challenge perfect for VR technology.

Photo by Michael Blase.

“Much of the success of new VR will hinge upon the quality of experiences being created. Everyone is searching for that sublime encounter one can only have in VR. With the boxwood miniatures and their high-resolution scans, we have found the perfect, transcendent landscape to explore in this medium,” says Ana Serrano, Chief Digital Officer, CFC, and producer of Small Wonders: The VR Experience.

The AGO, CFC Media Lab and Seneca’s School of Creative Arts and Animation partnered to create Small Wonders: The VR Experience. Using one of the AGO’s micro-computed topography (micro-CT) scans of the miniatures, the creative and technical team led by interactive artist and designer, Priam Givord, developed an experience specifically for the HTC Vive platform. Viewers can explore the intricate carvings of the prayer bead from various angles and in detail otherwise inaccessible to the human eye. 

Barbara Drake Boehm, senior curator for The Met Cloisters says, “At first glance, the VR experience might seem anomalous in the medieval ambiance of The Met Cloisters. But, thanks to the efforts of the CFC Media Lab, Seneca and the AGO, VR opens a portal through which our visitors can tumble in to a tiny world, and sense the meditative power that these centuries-old works of art were intended to convey.”