Explore impossibly small miniatures in the Art Gallery of Ontario’s first VR-integrated exhibit

Gothic Boxwood Miniatures are mysterious by nature. How did anyone carve intricate scenes so small they can fit in the palm of one’s hand? The Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) says that’s a question that can now be answered and a “challenge perfect for VR technology.”

In the gallery’s first integrated VR experience, visitors can pop on a HTC Vive headset to explore a 3D rendering of a miniature boxwood carving from its collection. Titled ‘Small Wonders,’ the experience is included in general admission and runs during regular gallery hours from December 2nd to 11th, though the larger exhibit runs until January 27th.

boxwood miniatures

“We know, by observing and asking, that AGO visitors crave closer contact with works of art,” says AGO Conservator Lisa Ellis, in a statement. “In particular, they find the Thomson Collection miniature Gothic boxwood carvings tantalizing: the details of these works are too tiny to fully comprehend from inside the glass cases where they usually live.”

The building blocks of the experience took shape five years ago, with a research campaign that imaged the carvings using a micro-CT scanner at the Department of Sustainable Archaeology at Western University, and rendered and segmented them using 3D analysis software (ORS SI).  From there, the scans were developed into a program for the Vive in collaboration with the Canadian Film Centre’s Media Lab and Seneca’s School of Creative Arts and Animation.

For more information on the mystery of the 1500s-era miniatures and the Small Wonders exhibit, check here.

Image credit: The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore

Related: HTC says it has sold more than 140,000 Vive headsets