The Virtual Museum in Downtown Bucharest

the virtual museum in downtown bucharest A museum that no longer exists has been revived by VR technology

In 1910, on a street in downtown Bucharest, an Ionic style edifice was being inaugurated, made to look like an ancient Greek temple. This was erected as the Simu Museum, which functioned as a private museum until 1927, when the owner, Anastase Simu, donated it to the Romanian state. Anastate Simu was a Romanian academician, PhD in political science, and art collector. He was secretary at the Romanian Legation in Berlin, and was made an honorary member of the Romanian Academy in 1933. He was born in 1854 in Braila, and passed away in Bucharest in 1935.

The building was taken down in 1960, at the height of the communist rule in the country, and in its place the regime built a fashion store called Eva.

The museum collection had five sections: ancient art, Romanian art, French art, and Byzantine art, with the fifth room housing the graphic and miniature collections. Here you could find a variety of works by French painters and sculptors of the 18th and 19th centuries. Among the exhibits were also Italian casts of the 16th century, alongside Byzantine icons.

Today you can once again visit the Simu Museum, but in the virtual space. We spoke about that with Mihai Gutanu, director of the Museum and Tourism Heritage Administration with Bucharest City Hall.

"We have to thank the people from the Ion Mincu School of Architecture. In the basement of the school they have a virtual museum that opened last year. Their idea was to take this virtual museum out of the basement and set it up in a public space. And what could have been more appropriate than having it in the Municipal Tourism Information Point in the University underground passage."

The virtual reality reconstruction of the Simu Museum was designed and built at the Ion Mincu School of Architecture in partnership with the Romanian National Art Museum, the National Archives, and Manifest Cultural, based on blueprints and archival photographs. Artifacts from the Simu Museum were turned into 3D scans, providing very accurate simulations of reality.

The project aims to accurately reconstruct one of the most important art museums in Bucharest between the wars. Also very accurately modeled were both the exterior of the building, and the first room, that dedicated to ancient art, and the exhibits were placed within a rich architectural space, simulated based on period photographs.

This way, a major Bucharest landmark, not only by its beauty, but also by its role, has been recovered by providing a realistic visiting experience with its scans of many artifacts formerly in the original building. Using VR goggles, the visitors can feel like stepping right into the museum, while other potential visitors can access the experience on-line, on the Sketchfab platform.

We asked director Gutanu for how much longer the VR museum will be available at the Tourism Information Center.

"The museum has more and more visitors every day, and, from an average of 10 to 15 visitors per day, yesterday we had 30. We are following closely the evolution and the interest sparked by this museum and its VR system. If we see it getting more popular, we will make it available one month more, maybe two."

Mihai Gutanu then added that they are considering making the museum available for even six months more, and he described what are some of the things that we can see during our visit:

"The museum itself was designed as a Greek temple, actually a copy of the Temple of Zeus of Olympia. Anastasie Simu was an avid collector, who put together a sensational collection in the first half of the 20th century. It had very early photography pieces, graphic art pieces, and Romanian paintings by painters like Theodor Aman, the founder of the first schools of fine arts in Romania, in Iasi and Bucharest, by Alexandru Severin, and Schweitzer-Cumpana, a 20th century painter who taught at the Nicolae Grigorescu school of painting. This was a world famous collection. He made it known abroad that the museum had been destroyed and the collections seized long after the events. A lot of tourists from France, Italy or Spain used to come to Bucharest and ask for directions to the museum, or ask where they could see the famous collection of graphic art, of oil paintings, or of ink drawings by remarkable graphic artists, such as Camil Pissaro, let's say. Pissaro's graphic works are very rare, there are a few at the Louvre, outside of the Simu Museum, which now can be seen virtually. All this treasure trove of art objects can no longer be seen outside of virtual space."

The museum collection numbered around 1,200 exhibits at the moment it was donated to the Romanian state. Anastasie Simu was the first art collector who almost literally built a temple to the arts, with the purpose of educating his co-nationals in the fine arts.
Publicat: 2020-03-10 13:57:00
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