Since not everyone in America has easy access to first-class culture, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts wants to bring it to them: As Smithsonian reports, the Richmond-based institution plans to launch an interactive mobile museum in fall 2018.
Called “VMFA on the Road,” the museum-on-wheels will visit rural schools, community centers, colleges, retirement homes, and small museums. At each stop, art lovers can enjoy lectures, distance learning opportunities, and rotating virtual reality tours of the museum's exhibitions.
The mobile museum is a modern offshoot of another VFMA initiative, the Artmobile, which was launched by the late architect and VMFA director Leslie Cheek Jr. From 1953 to 1994, the museum loaded tractor-trailers with works by artists like Monet, Rembrandt, and Picasso, and toured the state's remote areas to compensate for their lack of art institutions.
By the 1990s, the Artmobile program had swelled to include four high-tech Chevrolet tractor-trailers, each one laden with historic art treasures. Eventually, though, the VMFA discontinued its Artmobiles due to conservation and financial issues, including the challenges of protecting the artworks on the road.
As the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports, the VMFA's new traveling museum will be a specially designed, 53-foot Volvo tractor-trailer, paid for with corporate funds, foundation grants, and donations. It's been dubbed "Artmobile 2.0"—a fitting nickname for a high-tech take on a decades-old public service.