With an intricate past and a vibrant present, Paris is considered the cultural capital of Europe and the world and is, with 297 in total, the city with the most museums.. These vary from iconic institutions such as the Louvre or Musee d’Orsay to more niche museums such as the Musée des Arts et Métiers or the Musée des Egouts. Additionally, Paris has a myriad of monuments and historical sites where key events in France and Europe took place, such as Place Bastille or the Eiffel Tower. With millions of tourists visiting each year, Paris is the ideal city to be reproduced in the Metaverse, which would offer all the aforementioned attractions to people from all around the world, without having to leave their homes.
The Metaverse offers a platform for enhanced virtual communication, replicating the physical world as faithfully as possible and offering a range of advantages for users. Some cities like Boston or Seoul have already adopted “virtual twins” of their cities for the purpose of visualizing urban planning, organizing public transport or supporting virtual tourism. It is this last service that Paris stands the best chance to offer and benefit from, since it not only allows people to experience the city without moving from their living room, but allows them to visualize monuments and museums before visiting them physically and plan their route through the city.
For Parisian museums, features such as setting up their own virtual galleries in the metaverse or selling digitalised art in the form of NFTs provide an opportunity of expanded attraction and revenue, and some ideas can be sketched out already based on what some museums offer physically.
The Centre Pompidou for example has the largest modern art collection in Europe. In the Metaverse this could be enhanced by an interactive explanation of the process and inspiration behind each artwork. Additionally, Pompidou’s immersive characteristics — a museum including an exhibition and performance space and a cinema — go along well with the idea of digitalising museums and how the aim is to offer a more holistic and interactive experience.
Another case is that of Musée d’Orsay, full with artwork inspired by impressionism and other 19th century techniques that revolutionised the world of art. In the Metaverse, there could be virtual guides explaining and demonstrating the creative process of several artworks, as well as explaining what made them unique and innovative. Also worth mentioning is the impressive structure and interior of the museum, originally a train station, which transmits a depth and majesty that could easily make an impact within the metaverse.
As a last example we have the Musée des Arts et Metiers, Europe’s oldest science museum, and in possession of a diversity of inventions and machines dating from 1794 onwards, a perfect opportunity to design 3D models and create virtual workshops to learn about scientific techniques and the function of inventions from different time periods.
However, the Metaverse can also offer expanded access to monuments and historical sites. Tourists could visit the Arc de Triomphe or the Eiffel Tower from the Metaverse and observe the process of construction of these buildings, or even visualize how Notre Dame Cathedral looked before the fire and what the results of the reconstruction process will be. Tourists could also visit historical sites, where events can be recreated to visualize how these places looked like in the past and what people were doing there. These events can be recreated based on historical accounts or from novels such as 14 Juillet by Eric Vuillard, where the events around Bastille in 1789 are described with all kinds of details; or more classic works such as Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables, on which a virtual design of pre-Haussman Paris could be based, or even provide visitors the chance to visit the catacombs featured in many parts of the book without having to actually go underground.
The metaverse provides an opportunity for Paris to be at the head of sustainable tourism, since visiting a city from the Metaverse considerably reduces the air mileage, especially for people living far away from Paris, such as Southern Africa, the Pacific or the Americas. Additionally, it would help tourists on a budget save on plane tickets and hotel stays, or alternatively allow them to plan ahead for their stay in a more efficient way. Regardless, it offers alternatives for tourists around the world, both if they want to visit only virtually or are planning to visit physically at some point.
Paris is a city full of history and culture, which is reflected in its streets and buildings as well as the number of artists which make the city their home. Creating a metaverse version of the city would enhance the cultural experience for visitors and even allow them to visualize and experience historical events or the creative process behind artwork and buildings , as well as extend access to experiencing Paris to people around the world and make tourism more sustainable and affordable.