Museums must have active role in metaverse, experts say

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Museums must have active role in metaverse, experts say
Taihe Dian (Hall of Supreme Harmony) had ultimate status in the Forbidden City. [Photo by Wang Kaihao/China Daily]

Sixty museum directors and scholars of museology and cultural heritage-related circles from across China jointly signed a manifesto on Saturday calling for active participation of museums in the metaverse construction.

The manifesto was launched by professors from Shanghai University, including Duan Yong, An Laishun, who is also vice-president of the International Council of Museums, Pan Shouyong, and Li Mingbin.

It was also endorsed by directors of such key venues as the Shanghai Museum, Nanjing Museum, and Tianjin Museum, as well as prestigious scholars from Tsinghua University, Peking University, Fudan University and Zhejiang University.

Born in 1992, the metaverse was an active concept mainly in the world of science fiction, but was enthusiastically embraced in 2021 as a crossover explosion.

"At present, the dazzling metaverse application scenarios are rapidly expanding to every area of contemporary society," the manifesto, in both Chinese and English, said. "Although there are bubbles to some extent, it is undoubtedly a strategic direction to grasp the new round of technological revolution and new opportunities for industrial transition."

As the manifesto pointed out, the metaverse requires a large number of material artifacts from the physical world and cultural elements from the mental world in the process of virtualizing and digitizing the real world, and through the reproduction, simulation, processing and transformation of these contents, a digital living space is stepping into the world integrated with reality.

"Looking at the real world we live in, the best place to share both material artifacts and cultural elements in abundance is the museum," it said.

The scholars, therefore, believed that the museum's mission and vision are in tune with the metaverse, and the museum's future are intermingled with it.

Through the manifesto, museums were urged to further share digitized resources for mutual benefit and "dive in the research, exhibition and education, and collaboratively explore the creation of quality application scenarios to achieve high-quality development".

The manifesto also appealed to explore related standards and norms for the construction of the metaverse in the museum field, and thus make China's voice heard in the international discussion.

It stated that, in the metaverse, museums should also follow the ethics and principles accepted by similar institutions in the real world, adhere to their nonprofit nature and public attributes, develop through inheritance and innovate through keeping standards.

"Therefore, through the metaverse, museums can transcend time and space, reach far and wide, and become both old and young," it concluded.

Statistics released in May 2021 showed that the Chinese mainland had 5,788 registered museums, and more than 58 million cultural relics were housed in Chinese museums by the end of 2020.

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