Salve Musei Vaticani

In 1997 I had the opportunity to go to Italy and visit many places and museums.  Among them, the Vatican.  From all the museums and palaces I went, the one that took my breath away was the Sistine Chapel; I think I spent a whole day contemplating Michelangelo’s art, especially the ceiling’s “The Last Judgement”.  Back then I only had a big video camera with me, which security almost threw me out because they thought I was some sort of news anchor or a reporter and therefore I could not take much video that day.

One day I would like to go back–with a smaller camera, of course– to enjoy such cultural heritage.  Unfortunately, because of work, school, and family, this trip will have to wait indefinitely. However, thanks to new media, me, you, anyone can go to the Vatican Museum at any time, go to any room and admire for hours Michelangelo’s frescoes through its online museum “Collections Online“, a virtual online tour that allows you ‘visit’ different museums such as the Gregorian Egyptian Museum and Raphael’s Rooms where you are allowed to zoom in and do a panning of the room (see video below).

Vatican’s Museum ‘Collections Online’ video (http://mv.vatican.va/3_EN/pages/MV_Visite.html)

But my favorite of all is the virtual tour of the Sistine Chapel because is like you are there and you have the room just for yourself.  You are placed in the middle of the room and you can rotate and see all four walls; with the arrows in your keyboard you can look up to the ceiling and zoom in each part with such a great picture resolution that you can admire even the smaller detail that being physically there you would not be able to see because you would be too far away.  Additionally, the background music gives a kind of holistic and mystic feeling that at the end you are overwhelmed with Michelangelo’s talent (see video below). The virtual Sistine Chapel uses “krpano Panorama Viewer”, a technology that uses Adobe Flash Player and HTML5 / Javascript to render high-definition panoramic images giving the feeling that one is ‘physically’ there.

Virtual Tour of the Sistine Chapel (http://www.vatican.va/various/cappelle/sistina_vr/index.html)

Even though I know I will not be back in Rome for a while, I am happy that this site exists.  What new media has done for us in this case is that is bringing the museums to us, to our living rooms, to our bedrooms, where we have the VIP row to take our time to view, read, re-read and enjoy without a crowd and without security telling you that you have to leave because the museum is closing or because you have a big, bulky camera with you and you look too suspicious to be there.  Hooray for new media!

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