The Petofi Literary Museum in Budapest used ThingLink to create an interactive virtual museum tour for schools. It quickly grew into a joint virtual schools visit to the six major national collections in Budapest.
Cut off by Covid
A nationwide Coronavirus lockdown cut off the Petofi Literary Museum in Budapest from their visitors. Usually the entire country celebrates Revolution Day – a public holiday – on March 15th. Crowds of schoolchildren visit the museum, learning about the hero-poet Sandor Petofi. He was a key figure in the 1848 revolution, and children from kindergarten through to high school study his work. The exhibits in the museum are linked to the Hungarian national curriculum.
Anna Kadar and her colleagues Anna Czekmany, Judit Kodolanyi and Diana Sóki in the Education Department had to think fast. Teachers would need extra support now that so much of the education provision was cancelled at short notice. Anna had researched various options, but then she found ThingLink on Facebook. “We fell in love with it. It was so user-friendly – easy to design and easy to edit” she says.
The first virtual museum tour takes shape
To begin with, Anna’s colleagues were worried that they would need professional design and technical support. However, soon they were convinced. They had some help from the museum’s graphic designer Gábor Bogdándy. He found a 360 image from Google Street View (now deprecated) which was perfect. Anna very quickly and easily created her first ThingLink. “We did it in an afternoon!” she remembers, “and the branded icons we created ourselves looked so professional.”
In May the colleagues opened up the pilot “museum visit” to schools to sign up. The next day their mailboxes were full with requests from teachers to take part in the online lessons and tours. Subsequently, in May and June over 2,000 schoolchildren took part in the pilot.
“It’s so quick – there’s no waiting to see how it will look. There’s no need to brief external design agencies, with the potential for confusion and extra cost that involves.”
“ThingLink have been an amazing support and a great partner – we feel like we are all one team. And it’s clean and secure, with no security issues to worry about”. Anna Kadar
Creative collaboration with other art museums and institutions
The positive feedback and number of views encouraged the museum educators, so they suggested a collaboration. They would create content for schools with five of Budapest’s most important museums. These were the Hungarian National Museum, The Hungarian National Gallery, The Museum of Fine Arts in Budapest, the National Széchényi Library and the National Archives of Hungary. They all voted to develop the pilot into a joint virtual gallery and museums tour for schools. Incredibly, this was the first time these museums had collaborated on an education project, whether as a traditional museum exhibition or for online exhibits.
In total, 40 colleagues from across six museums took part in the project. This included administration, planning, communication and production. Nine museum educators spent all their summer holiday building the Thinglink together. These were Erika Andrási from the National Széchényi Library, Anna Czékmány, Judit Kodolányi and Diána Sóki from Petőfi Literary Museum, Laura Csonka and Henrietta Hecker from National Archives of Hungary, Szabina Gáva from the Hungarian National Museum, Vera Kovács from the Museum of Fine Arts and Zsófia Sepsey from the Hungarian National Gallery. The educators were then split into teams. They chose the overall theme as the growth of Hungarian national identity in the 19th century. They named the project Kapocs, which means link in Hungarian.
The exhibition design develops: seven themes
They split the project into seven themes, which they linked from the landing web page. These are: the nation state, travelling, ethnic groups, development of museums and libraries, communications, March 15th and the legacy of 19th century reforms.
The teams shared their ideas and content on a Google drive, mainly choosing items that had not been exhibited before. They presented them with their school audiences in mind. They also wrote new content specially for the project. It explained the artefacts and artworks and their significance to the development of the 19th century Hungarian nation.
The teams used many types of content, including audio, video, games and quizzes. One museum already had 360 images of their physical museum space, and the original design agency licensed them for use in the project free of charge. They also added links to external websites with extra information and videos, as well as links to the individual museum collections for further study. Although the team mainly designed Kapocs for school educators, it is free for anyone to access and use.
What’s next: Children curate their own virtual museum tour
The museum education department believes in “constructivist pedagogy”. In short, this is the idea that we construct knowledge through direct experience rather than just absorb it. The museum have added a new museum education room, which they designed to encourage creativity, In addition, schoolchildren will now also be able to create, curate and present their own exhibitions using ThingLink. As a result, schoolchildren learn vital cultural and workplace skills for the future.
“It’s shown us the possibilities of combining real space and virtual space. When we allow classes back in, we’re going to ask them to create their own exhibitions and present them usingThingLink. They can take photos of their objects, 360 photos of their pop up galleries and curate their own virtual exhibition,” says Anna Kadar. To learn more, or to invite Anna to speak about their project, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
For more inspiration on the virtual museum concept, and to see how other museums and galleries have created interactive exhibits and virtual tours using ThingLink, take a look at these case studies below.
- Highland Folk Museum: includes annotated 3d models of artefacts.
- V&A Dundee: Scotland’s flagship design museum widens access to museum exhibitions with ThingLink.
- Royal Ontario Museum: Includes a great video tutorial on how to navigate the tour for an optimal user experience.
Some tips to help you create an online museum exhibit or gallery
- You can embed your ThingLink virtual or online museum tour into your website or landing page, share on social media and even add a VR mode for optimal virtual reality viewing experience.
- You can also create an online museum exhibition quickly and easily without the need for a gallery space. Use our clever Canva template in ThingLink to create a 360 gallery space for your images!
- Have you heard about ThingLink’s 360 Image library? Users can now access stunning 360 images from around the world to create their own multimedia virtual tours and expeditions!
- You can also now use 3d models as your base media, or in tags within your virtual museum or tour. Read more about this exciting development here.