This study considers the virtual museum experience as a tool for enhancing art historical e-learning, both within traditional and online educational platforms. Using online museum collection environments and virtual exhibitions, this study considers the benefits and shortfalls of simulated e-viewing spaces, which are capable of presenting advanced visual information. Although a rich theoretical framework exists in relationship to the concept of experience simulation in an increasingly technological world, such as Jean Baudrillard’s (1994) postmodernist Simulacra, very little research explores the potential of the virtual environment in the context of e-learning applications related to the visual arts. This study steps beyond the application of theory-for-theory’s sake, by comparing various online exhibitions and museum platforms, in an effort to find relevant applications to the concept of experience simulation as a tool for studying art and art history. It is proposed that, although the virtual viewing space is not a perfect substitute for the live viewing experience, the capabilities of high-resolution digital imagery and museum simulations allow for greatly enhanced understanding of visual properties. Unlike the traditional museum or classroom space, e-learners have the added benefit of being able to zoom, scroll, compare, and harness content from a variety of sources and platforms.
Assistant Professor of Art History and Practicing Attorney, Art History, Utah Valley University, Orem, Utah, USA