Tuesday, 4 November 2014




Minecraft British Museum.
The Minecraft British Museum in all its glory!
The British Museum is already taking shape in Minecraft. Twenty days after announcing the project in September, the façade and courtyard were complete. The aim of the institution's ambitious project is to build the entire British Museum in Minecraft, including exhibits and artifacts.

But the British Museum isn’t the first to take advantage of the game's success. Other museums are using the sandbox game as an educational tool to draw younger audiences and connect their collections to the virtual world. Take this example based on the Tate Modern, where users can jump into paintings in a Minecraft world.

There is no doubt Minecraft has been a runaway success, selling nearly 54 million copies as of June 2014. The game allows users to build whatever they desire out of textured blocks in 3-D generated worlds.

Musemcraft and the British Museum

The British Museum is recruiting the public through Reddit to help build their Minecraft museum, and the initial uptake seems positive. The project is part of the museum's public debate on the future of the institution, which, among other things, is considering “how the public interacts with collections – and how that might impact on the physical spaces themselves.”

Other museums are also taking this to heart, integrating Minecraft into their programs as an entry point for public engagement. The Auckland Museum in New Zealand is working with high school design students to recreate aspects of New Zealand's First World War history in the game.

Students are using museum collections as reference points to create battleships, dugouts, trench systems, and historical battle sites. Once students have finished building, the museum hopes to make their Minecraft map downloadable.

Minecraft farmers working in a garden.
Minecraft farmers working away in the AMNH map!
But some institutions are also bringing Minecraft into the museum itself. The American Museum of Natural History in New York was one of the earliest institutions on the Minecraft bandwagon, using the game to connect younger audiences to exhibitions. In a 2013 program, a Minecraft simulation complemented the exhibition Our Global Kitchen, which explored the complex food systems from the farm to the table.

Sounds a little dull for a 15-year-old, right? Enter Minecraft. Program participants started their day working in Minecraft where they looked at the cycle of food production in the game. They then compared the virtual food cycle to the one presented in the exhibition.

The AMNH's Foodcraft program.

The one-day program turned into a series of classes aimed at grades 8 to 12. The 2013 Minecraft in the Museum program taught participants about geology, biodiversity and poison (which connected to a special exhibition).

So, does the future of museums lie in the virtual realm, or is Minecraft another fad museums are taking advantage of? As the British Museum nears its virtual completion, it will be curious to see how people interact with this new museum platform.

1 comment:

  1. Jenny, what a great example of fully digitizing the museum! The idea of jumping in paintings at Tate is a fantasy of many visitors (which of course they cannot or should not try in the physical space of the museum). I really liked that you brought into discussion Our Global Kitchen - it is funny that I met one of the curators of the show last week when I was at a conference in New York and she told me about how big of a difference having additional programming, such as the one you described, made for the different audience communities who entered the museum.