Sic Transit Gloria Mundi … the Dresden Art Museum closes in Second Life

Inside the Dresden Gallery
Inside the Dresden Gallery

I received sad news today of the closure of the Dresden Art Museum, one of the Must See places on the Second Life grid.

Dresden Gallery - entrance
Dresden Gallery - entrance

The email ran as follows:

Dear Member of our Friends of Dresden Gallery Community,

We regret to announce that after almost four years of successful operation and countless visitors from all over the world the virtual Dresden Gallery in Second Life will discontinue service as of December 20th.

The Dresden State Art Collections have decided not to extend the project since they see themselves unable to commit further capacities to the maintenance of the virtual gallery and have set new priorities regarding their digital strategy.

Dresden Gallery - The German Room
Dresden Gallery - The German Room

This will affect this community on Ning as well, which we are going to take down shortly. If you would like to stay informed about Dresden’s activities in the digital realm you can sign up with one of the following services:
Panorama Tour: http://www.skd.museum/fileadmin/panoramav103/
Online Collection: http://skd-online-collection.skd.museum/en
Facebook Fanpage: http://www.facebook.com/skd.museum
Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/skdmuseum

We thank you for your support.

The Dresden Gallery Team

This represents the loss of a beautiful and fascinating build, and I would urge you all to pay one last visit before it closes.  We covered it in a Designing Worlds show back in 2009, and learned some interesting things – such as the fact that in early 2009, the Dresden Gallery in Second Life was getting 60,000 visitors a year – which was over 10% of what the real gallery received (500,000 per annum).  But, even more significant was the length of time the average visitor spends there.  It was forty minutes per visit – and that is on a par with the average museum and art gallery visit in the real world, which is 45 minutes.

Inside the Dresden Gallery
Inside the Dresden Gallery

But now the Dresden State Art Collections have decided that the fully immersive experience of Second Life is no longer part of their digital strategy; they are focusing on other formats instead. While one can be delighted that the forward thinking museum will be making all their collection digitally available, it is a great shame that with the closure of the build in Second Life, the context will be lost.  Significant as the art works are, the sense of place in seeing them in even a virtual representation of their setting can be a very affirming expense, especially, perhaps, for those who may never have the opportunity of visiting the real life museum.

What does the closure mean for Second Life?  It does seem part of a move away from the grid – sometimes with the closure of projects; sometimes with projects moving to other grids where costs are lower – such as the Bristol University project for the Pompeiian Court at the Crystal Palace, which closed recently in Second Life.

Outside the Pompeii Court at the Crystal Palace
Outside the Pompeii Court at the Crystal Palace

It seems to me that although there is a thriving artistic and creative community in Second Life, there is a danger of increasing isolation.  We’re all aware of the “Whatever Happened to Second Life?” stories, which can be cogently rebutted or analysed by people like Pooky Amsterdam and Gary Wisniewski.  but the very fact that these stories are being written suggests that the parade has gone by.  We may be part of a thriving community, but that community may be a technological backwater – or a cul-de-sac full of really cool things, but not on the road to anywhere, and often overlooked.

It’s certainly true that – even when the creations survive in Second Life – that may be because of the efforts of committed residents.  The University of Oxford, who were behind the 1st World War Poetry sim of Frideswide, have recently withdrawn from Second Life.  Fortunately for us,  apatron has taken over so you will still be able to visit Frideswide and explore this deeply moving  region.  But the key fact here is that like the Dresden State Art Collections, like Princeton, like IBM … Oxford has quietly returned to the real world and is exploring other digital strategies instead.

The First World War Poetry Digital Archive in Second Life
The First World War Poetry Digital Archive in Second Life

NB – At 3pm today you can hear Csteph Submariner, creator of the 1st World War poetry region, talking about the sim in conversation with Elrik Merlin at the Prim Perfect Pavilion on Frosty, at the Second Life Christmas Expo.

8 comments

  1. I am glad you reported this, so I have had a chance to visit the gallery in Second Life before it closes. How magificent, and how sad that it will disappear. I do hope it will be archived, or maybe it will find a saviour?

  2. Amongst other closures, the closure of the Dresden site in SL is the closure that makes me sad – and I will uninstall SL from my computer. It doesn’t make sense anymore to install dozens of updates of the viewer, while the main sites in SL, the contents, are being discontinued. It’s a very sad Christmas. But I am also angry that the owners of the Dresden site decided to shut it down. It was perfect as it was. Why not leaving it there, as it was and is? Why removing the material from SL?

    1. I think, Horst, it was really simple for Dresden. They allocated funding o a project, the funding ran out and – despite initial interest, there was the sustained interest or involvement that justified the ongoing cost of tier and maintenance (the sim was supported by a Ning that had to be maintained). Leaving it there is not possible without funding, and, with many other developments, they didn’t find this a sustainable one.

      The same is true of the First World War poetry site, which the University of Oxford have handed over to private ownership. And I know everyone involved is very grateful to Veritas Raymaker, who is now supporting Frideswide.

      The question of archiving is a HUGELY complex one, and I’m planning to write about it over the Chriostmas season – and I think our Art Editor, Rowan Derryth, who takes a different view to me, will be writing something too.

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