This paper outlines the technological requirements and the steps necessary to create a virtual tour for a virtual museum exhibit using QR Codes. This system was developed for the Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa, Oklahoma and was tested in two separate exhibits. The components of virtualization include: images of each object for visualization; object labels and metadata about the objects in the exhibit; extended object and artist information; code generation to link the physical artwork with its virtual representation; and finally the virtual tour. Virtual tours enhance the accessibility and expand the life of an exhibition. Virtual tours allow for shared experiences and support collaborations.
Images of each object provide the visual content of the exhibit. Object labels contain standard metadata including title, artist, date and place of creation, accession number and date, and credit line. Extended object and artist information includes textual descriptions and interpretation that help museum visitors understand what they are seeing. Images, copy and extended information combined represent the virtual knowledge about a particular object.
A two-dimensional QR Code is generated for each object on display to link the physical object with its virtual representation. QR Codes were selected for this project because of their burgeoning use among mobile devices and smart phone users for a variety of purposes. In-museum or remote visitors can scan an object’s QR Code to gain a portal into the expanded virtual information provided beyond the object label. The virtual tour is accessed through Tour QR Codes which link the visitor to items in the exhibit. The Tour QR Code can be generated via an interactive kiosk which allows visitors to search for objects or subjects of interests, or it can be generated by the museum staff or teachers for remote access. The QR Code-based virtual tour becomes a permanently accessible tour for the public; it extends life of the work used to create the physical exhibition, and over time, becomes a virtual library of the museum’s exhibitions. The system is adaptable and allows curators, docents, and visitors to expand the informational content of the exhibition through time. Through this technology, an exhibition can continue to grow, provide more kinds of information, and provide interactive elements that are beyond the scope of the usual three dimensional exhibitions. By sustaining the exhibit on the website, each exhibition potentially becomes an ever growing source of reliable information about the exhibit’s topic.