Contextualising the contested: Xr as experimental museology

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Joanna Rivera-Carlisle


Museums are becoming increasingly multi-medial experiences and with the emergence of the metaverse (Coates, 2021), immersive technologies (XR) are projected to form an important part of future museum experiences. With options to provide a multiplicity of non-hierarchical information, support individualised paths through exhibitions, and experiential visits, XR has the potential to help keep visitors engaged around complex and nuanced information (Mulcahy, 2017). Working on devices that most museum visitors already own, XR technologies present a promising move towards more inclusivity, accessibility, and active audience engagement. Contributing to research on the multiple uses of XR in UK museums, this paper focuses on how XR can be operationalised to address contested displays in Western museums. Using an external app for the British Museum as an example, this paper discusses the challenges arising from this intersection, including the entrenchment of immersive technologies in colonial power dichotomies, the risks of performative virtual interventions, and the conflicting agencies museums, companies, and individuals must navigate in this context. The author suggests, as a possible experimental approach, wiki-based XR interactions which engage with non-Eurocentric epistemologies and are co-created by communities commonly disenfranchised in Western museum spaces.


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Rivera-Carlisle, J. (2023). Contextualising the contested: Xr as experimental museology. Herança, 6(1), 84–100.
Author Biography

Joanna Rivera-Carlisle, University of Oxford, United Kingdom

Joanna is an XR researcher at the Oxford Internet Institute whose work focuses on junctures between immersive technologies, critical heritage visualisations and decolonial historiography. Their current research examines how immersive technologies may be operationalised to critically contextualise spatial enactments of colonial histories in Britain. Prior to joining the OII, Joanna worked for a number of non-profit organisations and obtained degrees in Digital Culture, Postcolonial Studies and Performance Design from King’s College London, Potsdam University, RCSSD, and UAL, respectively.


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