Art in Second Life: museum 2.0

Imagine walking through a museum with every major work of art in history. An entire wing with all of Leonardo da Vinci’s works; an entire wing with all of Vincent van Gogh’s works; and an entire wing with all of Jackson Pollock’s works. Or an entire wing with all the major works from the Italian high renaissance; an entire wing of all the major works from the Byzantine era; and an entire wing of all the major works surrealism.

It’s not quite as impossible as it seems. I have been browsing through Second Life lately and that made me think of all the possibilities there are regarding art, education and the Internet. I already mentioned that it would be great if chamber ensembles could perform in Second Life (what to think, for example, of a world premiere of a new composition by the International Contemporary Ensemble?).

Now I’m imagining a grand museum—a collaboration between the world’s greatest museums perhaps?—where Second Life residents can roam through virtual galleries, where paintings are replaced by high-resolution images. Sure, the Da Vinci wing would duplicate some works of art from the renaissance wing, something you can’t do in a real museum, but it makes categorization easier.

Let’s imagine standing in front of Van Gogh’s The Potato Eaters. You can zoom in, see the amazing brush stroke details, and looking left and right, you can see his other works, or the preliminary sketches. There’s a description next to the painting/image. But to make it not just any museum and to make it Web 2.0, this description can be edited like a Wikipedia entry. The description has links so you can guide your avatar to a relevant wing with one of Van Gogh’s contemporaries, or to one of Van Gogh’s influences.

This museum has lecture rooms, where world-famous curators or art historians can lecture before an audience of Second Life residents. This museum has discussion rooms, where art aficionados can discuss their opinions about artists and art. Teachers can guide students around and stop by works of art that fit their lesson plans; visitors can go on a guided tour with knowledgeable volunteers.

This museum also has an exhibition wing where new artists can display their work. Visitors can show appreciation (or disgust) by leaving comments; visitors can vote on what artist should earn the next exhibition space and time, or what they like and dislike; journalists might even write reviews.

This museum also has individual spaces where you can create your own exhibition and display and curate your favorite, or your own, works of art, inviting your friends to come and watch it.

It would be quite the project, but again, not quite as impossible as it seems. Combining the elements of social media and Web 2.0 with an old-fashioned museum can be tremendously exciting. It would never replace a real museum visit, but it might become an enormously valuable education tool. And it just might be fun too.