Redefinition of Exhibition Spaces and Visitor Engagement in the Virtual Ecosystem: A Case-Study of the Digital Exhibitions by the National Museum, Delhi, India

National Museum, Delhi, India

With the onslaught of the global crisis of COVID-19, museums worldwide have virtually opened their gates to visitors all over the world. Aiming at a global viewership, as opposed to global visitor-ship in the pre-pandemic world, is the focus of contemporary curatorial practices. A virtual museum is meant to explore the dialectical and the dialogical spaces through the dual aspects of the virtual and the real, which also posits several questions while establishing a cyber-medium as the key to unravelling the exhibition’s message. The digital resources, regardless of the number of artefacts digitized for knowledge, research, and public scrutiny, provide a technological interface that is different from an exhibition space. While an exhibition is bound to a theme or a diverse group of concepts, the common interest is to exhibit an object, not through physical means but through the optical matrix of digital space. This paper aims to deliberate upon the goals of the virtual museum as not to compete with or replace traditional museum visits, but to enhance, complement, and augment the museum experience. This whole new outlook not only offers a level of personalization, interactivity, and richness of content that is impossible to bring in the real world, but also strengthens the ideas of learning and connecting cultural boundaries. These aspects will be discussed in detail through select case studies of virtual and online exhibitions curated by the National Museum, Delhi, India. For instance- the museum has launched a portal for the virtual museum, marked with the opening of the SCO exhibition on ‘Shared Heritage of Buddhist Art across the SCO nations.’ For the first time in India, the National Museum put on a rich and diverse display of antiquity with the help of photogrammetry, bringing out various facets of physical and virtual viewership.