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03 November

Something Old, Something New: Virtualizing a Museum Visit with Netflix

WRITTEN BY MediaMonks

Museums have long existed to make culture more accessible to their audiences, giving patrons access to artifacts and works of art that teach them about both past and present, as well as celebrate differences in culture across time and space.

But what appeals to audiences of one generation doesn’t necessarily translate to another, prompting museums to rethink and evolve their approach to outreach. Digital further helps museums inject new relevance into their collections, allowing patrons to engage with exhibits outside of visitor hours or across borders.

An outstanding example of this is the newly launched “The Queen and the Crown” digital exhibit by Netflix and the Brooklyn Museum, made in collaboration with MediaMonks. The exhibit highlights costumes featured in both Netflix-original series The Queen’s Gambit (a new limited series that premiered on October 23) and season four of The Crown, which returns on November 15.

Vogue calls the exhibit “the kind of immersive concept that could only happen with the help of the internet,” noting the ability to get a closer look at the costumes’ dazzling  details than would be possible in-person, as well as the brightly-lit virtual venue that would have damaged the costumes if they stood there in reality–a rare scene that must be experienced to be believed. W Magazine also covered the work, including additional insight and commentary from Brooklyn Museum curator Matthew Yokobosky, who paired some of the outfits on display with art pieces from the museum’s collection.

The concept resonates strongly with viewers, as costume design is integral to both series. In The Queen’s Gambit, protagonist Beth Harmon’s outfits reflect her rise in the ranks of competitive chess. The Crown meanwhile focuses on different eras of Queen Elizabeth II’s life in each season, featuring a new cast and wardrobe in each to reflect the historical context. The digital exhibit leverages the power of the period dramas and the fidelity of Netflix’s sartorial vision to make history a little more relatable.

Enter the Virtual Museum

The Queen and the Crown exhibit is not just a simple carousel of images; to provide a truly immersive digital experience, MediaMonks helped build and model the museum’s interior and exterior, paying tribute to its beautiful architecture and drumming up the sense of anticipation felt when entering into a museum lobby. “The intricate detail we were able to achieve in rendering the museum’s exterior façade is especially impressive,” says Celeste Acosta, Global Head of Client for Netflix at MediaMonks.

Step into the virtual museum yourself.

Once users click through, they enter a fully 3D, immersive rendering of the Brooklyn Museum’s iconic Beaux-Arts Court. This is where viewers can inspect the exhibit at every angle–just as they’d do in-person. The experience of entering the virtual hall is striking; in addition to the attention to detail the team took to recreate the space visually, music and the sound of footsteps reverberating off its walls add to the atmosphere as if you were really there. As viewers inspect each outfit in detail, written commentary from the shows’ costume designers, show clips, sketches, fabric swatches and detail photos add greater context to each.

Everything is artfully arranged on the digital exhibit floor–Acosta noted that arranging the virtual exhibit required carefully building a floorplan, much like how Brooklyn Museum would plan out a physical exhibit. Due to the challenging amount of outfits in one single space, one of the greatest challenges was combining the 360 photographs within the 3D space, then blending this together with the UI to create a seamless experience. The result is a digital destination that fans of either show and fashion enthusiasts alike can enjoy, demonstrating how brands can inject new relevance through original content that drive new ways for consumers to interact with culture.

Production Innovation Brought Costumes to Life

The experience of viewing the exhibit wasn’t the only innovation: the team employed cutting-edge production behind the scenes to bring the work to life for audiences far and wide. We used two shoots: one in LA for costumes from The Queen’s Gambit, and one in the UK for those from The Crown. Using a turntable, we captured each outfit from every angle, stitching the images together to mimic 3D.

Due to safety measures imposed by the pandemic, the brand team oversaw production remotely in both locations to ensure a COVID-safe production that captured a staggering volume of images. “The exhibit is a combination of 1,512 photographs: 72 images of each dress,” says Robert Burdsall, Film Producer at MediaMonks. “To capture this remotely was a true collaboration between teams in Los Angeles and London. By working closely with health and safety professionals, we were able to uphold our high safety standards ensuring our teams on set were protected from Covid-19.”

Activating New Audiences Through Partnership

Exhibitions like The Queen and the Crown can help make museum collections more relevant to digital-native audiences. As cultural centers evolve to become more relevant with their audiences, they’ll also need to rethink how they contextualize their collections: in the Wall Street Journal, Museum of Modern Art Director Glenn Lowry notes that museums have become “content providers,” signaling a growing change in mindset in how they serve artifacts and the histories that surround them.

As museums begin to see themselves as content platforms in their own right, serving not only local communities but patrons from afar as well, they’ll need to focus on creating digital destinations that engage with the cultural zeitgeist–whether that means repackaging exhibits for popular social platforms, collaborating with brands and influencers or even virtualizing the experience of visiting the museum.

Brands like Netflix who are adept in creating original content can prove essential to translating audience insights into impactful experiences that resonate with both broad and niche audiences. “At the end of the day, we’re all trying to tell stories to connect with audiences—whether through a museum exhibition, a drama series or both,” says MediaMonks CMO Kate Richling. “It’s cool to watch history unfold in new and entertaining formats, ultimately becoming more accessible to people around the world.” In this respect, the exhibit serves as an example of how brands can fuel creativity in making culture more relevant and accessible for audiences through digital.

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