If you've not yet experienced the exhibit "No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man" at the Renwick Gallery, you still have time - maybe forever. You don't even need to leave your house because the exhibit has been copied and pasted into virtual reality.
The Smithsonian American Art Museum, in partnership with Intel, is welcoming digital tourists to virtually visit the Renwick Gallery. With or without high-tech goggles, VR visitors can see the current exhibit which explores the art of the Burning Man festival.
To create this virtual experience, photographers captured more than 12,000 images.
For several years, the Smithsonian has been working to digitize its collections, considering only a fraction can be displayed at any one time. But virtual reality is a new venture.
It could attract VR users to visit in real life. It could give virtual access to those unable to visit because they live in another state or country or because of a disability.
The exhibit's curator can even log-in to offer virtual tours of the collection.
“The Smithsonian has a very ambitious goal for the next five years of reaching a billion people. We can't do that with just our physical spaces,” said Renwick Gallery curator Nora Atkinson.
The full show is on display through mid-September, but through virtual reality visitors can experience it for eternity.
“We're really looking at this opportunity for the future to see what the technology can bring to the museum environment,” Atkinson said.
But is it realistic to think people would use virtual reality to visit museums?
Tourist Betsy Stapleton said, “If something that was wonderful that was going on in Oslo or something at the Louvre, that I couldn't [visit] - oh no, absolutely. It would be marvelous.”
But no matter how advanced the technology, tourists at the Renwick Gallery say VR cannot compare to a real visit.
“You can look at pictures of them online but I think it's something you need to see in person,” said Joel Erickson.
“You're not just watching a flat screen, you're looking at everything in the three dimensional,” added Sharlene Jennisen.