MUVA (Museo Virtual de Artes – El Pais) is a virtual art museum for contemporary art from Uruguay. It’s been on the web for a number of years. I’m not sure exactly when it debuted, but it predates the virtual spaces in virtual worlds like Second Life by a good bit.
The museum is an online gallery, with rotating shows of various artists, that is arranged in a 3-D virtual space that you can “walk though” using links in the interface. Hovering your mouse over parts of the interface, or on control buttons, allows you to navigate through the gallery spaces in which previews of the works are arranged like paintings hanging on the virtual walls of the museum. Clicking directly on a work allows you to view a larger image of the work in much the same way you would in a standard online gallery. A small map in the interface shows you your position and orientation within the museum’s floors and galleries.
There is a relatively new Flash version now to compliment the original HTML version (shown here). Try a little of both to see which you prefer, depending on the speed of your connection. Both versions are offered in either Spanish or English. When in doubt, there is a help feature at the bottom of the interface and if you become impatient, use the Site Map.
This arrangement is obviously not as efficient as regular thumbnail-and-enlargement online galleries, but sometimes, particularly when viewing art, efficiency is not the point. The 3-D environment is convincing and consistent enough to give you a feeling of taking some time to wander through a real museum, with it’s attendant “Let’s see what’s in this gallery.” sense of exploration.
Overall the effect is clever and entertaining in it own right, leading you to perhaps spend some time with some artists that you might not be familiar with or seek out under other circumstances.