What is a virtual museum? A virtual museum can be defined as an interactive virtual space that provides information and exhibits cultural objects in digital format. Virtual museums vary in their degree of virtuality, depending on the type of cultural objects they exhibit. While many virtual museums show digital copies of real works of art (that is, reproductions of artworks that exist in the physical world), some virtual museums display artworks that are created in cyberspace and have no physical embodiment (e.g., net art, digital photography).
Due to its low cost and simple organization, the virtual museum has been in many cases a means of creating museums that cannot exist in the physical world. While some virtual museums constitute reproductions of existing museums (e.g., the web sites of
the Museé Louvre in Paris,
the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, and
the Museo del Prado in Madrid),
Museo Virtual de Artes El País (MUVA) of Uruguay,
the Web Museum of Paris, and
These virtual museums have made possible the collection of artworks that belong to numerous galleries and museums around the world. For instance, there are virtual museums that exhibit national collections that would be impossible to display in a real museum or gallery due to legal and economic factors. (For example, the Museo Imaginado of Spain displays digital copies of Spanish paintings that belong to collections outside of Spain.)