Behind the scene

of the SVDA VR Exhibition



How we get to building an online VR exhibition



Planning with each partner’s goal for appropriate themes for the exhibition



Major software used to construct the exhibition

a | Background

Responding to the unexpected

The initial collaborative exhibition plan was a multi-point interactive physical exhibit throughout Virginia Tech Newman Library and Art & Architecture Library in Fall 2020. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the majority of the exhibition was moved online. The challenges faced for the exhibition were new. However, it also opens up windows for me to present the exhibit in a fun and interactive way.

“Let’s build something everyone enjoys and hide the Easter eggs in the exhibition.”

b | Themes

The exhibition is unique and challenging in a few ways, one of which is that it involves cross-unit, cross-library, cross-institutions collaboration. Hence, there are the goals that we need to attain to satisfy each partner.

Southwest Virginia Digital Archive

Increasing brand awareness and promoting digital collections

Special Collection and University Archives

Promoting architecture related collections in the unit

Art & Architecture Library

Providing information on Cowgill’s history and founders

The key success factor for the exhibition is extending the total time users stop at an exhibit. To stop users from using their phone and start interacting with the exhibit, the themes for both physical and online exhibit are “powerful wow effect”, “unexpected”, and “fun”.

Innovation | Technology | Fun

c | Software

Other software used
Photoshop, Google Sheets, Google Doc, bitly



A free online app used to construct the SDVA VR exhibition.



An accessible alternative to the virtual exhibit

01 artsteps

Virtual Reality Exhibition online app

where the exhibition is built and hosted

Artsteps is a free online app for creating VR exhibitions. It comes with a three-dimensional object library and is viewable on a browser. However, it also has some disadvantages such as difficulty in reading text from the tour, unable to embed links within the exhibition for redirecting users to get a clearer view of the digital object. Last but not least, just like any other VR software, the VR exhibition on artsteps is inaccessible.

high angle shot of the exhibit's building wall showing a link to more 3D models with a partial overview of the Reynolds and Taubman Museum Collections at the background
overhead shot of the partially completed exhibit floor plan with buliding elements and assets
Artsteps is the ideal online app to build the exhibition in comparison to other market VR exhibition apps*. Factors considered are the variety of features, design, and proficiency level needed to use the app.
*google art and culture, artspaces, virtual trade show hosting, roomful, exhibbit, ikonospace, ortelia

Design details

gif demonstrating process of adjusting assets displayed are of the same size
Ensuring all images in the exhibit are of same size by comparing images right next to each other

The exhibition was first built using the artsteps template. However, it became apparent that the space in the predefined template wasn’t enough for the exhibition collection size. Numerous floor plans were sketched and tested to fit the collection size and traffic flow. As the fundamental floor plan was adopted, extensive quality control was conducted continuously. Quality control was mostly performed in a first-person view to evaluate smoothness of traffic flow, image size, image color tone, text font size, wall color, atmosphere, the environment of the exhibition, i.e. lighting reflected on images matches with the setting of the image in the virtual exhibit.

popped up window with description of a note card displayed in the exhibit with a redirect link for a clearer view of the document.

Books and handwritten documents are difficult to read in the VR exhibition. To solve the issue, the items’ unique shortened URLs were embedded into the items’ Description to redirect users to the SVDA platform where participants can have a clearer view of the document or use a two-page view function just as one would read a book, with two pages aligned next to each other.

A 3D object description window popped up with a link to the site hosting the 3D object so users can interact with object

Shortened URLs for 3D objects in the exhibition were provided to redirect users to interact with the 3D objects hosted on SketchFab.

3D specimens were hidden in the exhibition as Easter eggs for users to explore around the exhibition.

This ocean wave sound was added as the exhibition background sound to resemble the Mediterranean settings even more with the exhibition background.


Step by step instructions on building a VR exhibition on artsteps.

Chapter 24: Creating VR Exhibits Based on Digital Collections (pp. 142-150).

ISBN 9780838949481

02 Omeka

Accessible version of online exhibit

default digital library platform

The SVDA platform is built on Omeka. All the digital objects displayed in the VR exhibit (except the three-dimensional objects) can also be found on the specially created Omeka exhibit page. Redirect URLs of digital objects are provided in the VR exhibition as well for utilization of the image viewer with paging variations, download images, or citations.

a collage of screenshots from the digital library site
book viewer application showing book pages side by side just as how users would interact with a book
Why redirect links used? Because we are unable to post all images in the exhibit. The minutes shown on the right has 342 pages. Would you stop for hundred images of handwritten text or would rather see a variety of objects in an exhibit?

SVDA VR Exhibition

Quick links to the exhibition on different apps.
Links open in a new tab.