GLAMi nomination: Fabergé at VMFA

nominated by: Kelsey Beckwith, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, USA
institution: Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
category: Exhibition Media or Experience

VMFA has the largest public collection of Fabergé outside of Russia, making it one of the most popular galleries in the museum. Almost 170 Fabergé objects were bequeathed to VMFA by Virginian Lillian Thomas Pratt in 1947. VMFA reinstalled five galleries of Fabergé and Russian Decorative Arts in October 2016, with approximately 280 objects. To support the re-installation, VMFA wanted to provide enthusiasts with the rich, historical context that brings the collection to life, while also providing delightful experiences for the casual user on site or at home. The following projects enhance the gallery experience and help to keep these stories and creativity alive.

Five projects:

  1. Fabergé at VMFA mobile application

The mobile application features a “Five Pathways” interactive experience where users explore the collection through various perspectives. Members of the Romanov family, Fabergé, donor Lillian Thomas Pratt, and a Russian fairy tale are all featured, along with never-before seen photographs and archives. The application also features a digital interactive called “Create your Own Fabergé Egg.” The “Five Pathways” experience lives on four tethered iPads in a gallery dedicated to the five eggs made for the Russian royal family. The free application is also available in the App Store and Google Play. The engagement rate for the mobile application has been high; the average session duration is 37 minutes.  We have reached people in 28 countries and 234 cities around the world.

  1. Create your own Fabergé Egg: Egg Workshop

Located in a gallery dedicated to Fabergé and Russian enamels, an interactive iPad station allows users to select design features from 75 miniature eggs on view nearby to create a custom egg design. The design elements were extracted from VMFA’s original images of the eggs and lend an authentic feel to the experience. The designs can be emailed along with information on the selected eggs, and can be saved and “liked” by other users.  This activity has had over 28,000 events.

  1. Ivan and Gray Wolf interactive

In a gallery dedicated to Old Russian style, users can explore the Russian fairy tale “Ivan and the Gray Wolf” on an iPad. The artwork for the fairy tale was carefully taken from scans of a book in VMFA’s rare book collection illustrated by Bilibin. The digital fairy tale features an interactive map designed to engage on-site and at-home users. This interactive makes connections with the Bilibin book on view nearby, as well as to a painting on an enameled box by artist Feodore Rückert.

  1. Digital didactics

The highlight of VMFA’s Fabergé collection is the gallery dedicated to the five imperial Easter eggs created for members of the Romanov family. Here, four large touch-screens provide unique access to detailed views of the eggs including videos of the eggs opening to reveal their surprises. The touchscreens feature layered information and archival material.

  1. Keeping the Gallery Experience Alive

The Fabergé website for archives and research provides users with Mrs. Pratt’s archives, along with documentary videos, digitized rare books, and 360 degree views of each imperial egg. This website complements the design of other digital projects and provides further information on the Pratt collection.