Future Museum Studio

@ Shanghai Jiao Tong University's Institute of Cultural and Creative Industry

Advancing the future of museum experiences through new technologies.


The Future Museum Media Innovation Studio is a long-term project to partner with museums, and image archives to create new-technology media experiences of history—especially in Shanghai. Over the last 8 years, the project leader, Geoffrey Alan Rhodes, has produced augmented reality and virtual reality experiences in the USA in collaboration with the Chicago History Museum (www.Chicago00.org). In 2021, ICCI received funding from the Shanghai Education Bureau to support a series of workshops, events, and projects to advance new media projects of Shanghai history—especially historical photography. This year we are building the foundation for ongoing projects that innovate the use of new media for virtual history experiences.

The studio productions will connect historical images and stories with present-day places and people: new experiences of visual history outside the museum for new audiences. In our projects with the Chicago History Museum, we’ve used multiple technologies, including augmented reality apps, virtual reality experiences of historical sites, web portals through which audiences can explore maps and VR photography, as well as special live tours and exhibitions. We are always seeking new platforms, and new possibilities in media technology, especially as it concerns large audiences online and in museums.

Geoffrey Alan Rhodes

Geoffrey Alan Rhodes is a tenured professor at Shanghai Jiao Tong University’s Institute of Cultural and Creative Industry. He is the director of the Future Museum Media Innovation Studio, a new center for research in augmented and virtual reality. Previously, he led the development of new media design curriculum at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s department of Visual Communication Design, and new media at the Rochester Institute of Technology’s School of Film and Animation. Rhodes’ films and media art seek profound combinations of virtual and real. His ongoing project, Chicago00, is an award winning partnership with the Chicago History Museum to produce virtual reality experiences of photographic history.

Research Initiatives

  • Connect contemporary audiences with the visual history of their cities through new media experiences.
  • Develop new techniques and technologies to display virtual experiences in museums and galleries.
  • Research data analytics for measuring audience experiences of virtual cultural heritage.
  • Promote Shanghai's unique cosmopolitan history to the community and world.


Three sites are currently being developed (though there are many sites of interest, including Expo 2010, sports history, Yu Yuan Garden, the mid-century cinema industry, Shanghai’s old city walls, immigrant communities in Shanghai, and more):

Shanghai Bund

The Bund has a special role in the Shanghai's modern history, serving as an economic and touristic center for over a century. It is exceptional for its history of architecture, the history of banking, and the history of Shanghai’s quick expansion. As well, the Bund has a special photographic history. Few places in the world have such a quantity of architectural and panoramic photography from the early 1900s. As the present-day center of Shanghai’s world-class cultural sector, the Bund, as well, has special opportunities for partnerships with local companies and institutions that seek to promote and educate on the subject of Shanghai.

People's Square

People's Square, at the center of Shanghai, has a visually intriguing story. It was a racecourse and central site of foreign entertainment and then converted to a central public park after the revolution. An augmented reality experience of the site could bring to visual-life this often told story of change, and its connection with the nearby historical architecture and Shanghai History Museum.

French Concession

The French Concession is part of Shanghai’s special cosmopolitan identity. Present-day tourists, taking pictures along the lanes of the concession, wonder what life looked like on those streets when these buildings were constructed. There is a special opportunity to scour the archive for clusters of historical documentation focusing on some of the major international avenues (such as Middle HuaiHai Road, and East Jinling Road.



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Process behind Chicago00: 1893


Projects begin with searching out opportunities in emerging media, and research into the historical media archive. Working in consultation with archivists, historians, and curators, exceptional pieces or collections of media are identified and workshopped with new technology.

A few examples:

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Chicago00: 1915 – Augmented reality app


Chicago00: 1915 Eastland Disaster—the opportunity was presented by a historical event in downtown Chicago (a tragic boat accident in 1915) that was extensively documented: more than 300 photographs and multiple newsreel films. The events took place on a single city block, with easy pedestrian access along the city’s new Riverwalk. To take advantage of this, an augmented reality app was created, where audiences on-site could see the historical photographs, superimposed on the site where they were taken.

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Chicago00: 1933 – Virtual reality app


Chicago00: 1933 World’s Fair—the 1933 fair was heavily documented and an important historical event in the city’s history. Almost all of the buildings were demolished after the fair, and the site is now a public park and museum campus covering several miles. Of particular interest were aerial photographs taken from the fair’s Skyride (a 191 meter tall ride across the fair). To match the photographs, VR drone-photography was produced, matching the historical locations, and a narrated virtual reality tour of the site was published as APP, and also to the Youtube VR and Oculus distribution platforms.

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Chicago00: 1893 – Virtual reality experience and web portal


Chicago00: 1893 World’s Fair—the site of the historic fair is now a park that borders the University of Chicago. Exceptional aerial photographs taken from the windows of the original 1893 Ferris Wheel presented a special opportunity. Drone VR photography matching the path of the original wheel was captured, and a 3D animated model of the ferris wheel created to match the historical photographs. A narrated VR tour, as well as a web-portal mapped site were created to distribute the story.


Consultation with Government & Institutions

  1. The selection of historic sites, stories, and images is conducted through consultation with historians, archives, and museums.

  2. As projects are developed and reach the stage of proposals and visualizations, the team seeks consulation, approvals, and promotional interest from:

    1. District government

    2. Tourist bureaus

    3. Documentary Bureau

  3. Before publication and distribution, all stake holders are consulted.

Sharing with Audiences

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Chicago00 distribution channels: Youtube, Oculus, Facebook, iOS & Android APP, Google Street View, web portal


The Future Museum Studio is always seeking new distribution channels and possibilities as media technology changes. Virtual reality experiences have been published as APPs and through VR video and still distribution channels, and maps of the productions have been shared through self-hosted platforms.

Web portal APP

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The new Angular.js AR/VR web APP supports custom mapping and VR imagery.

The studio has newly produced a custom API web platform that supports mapped VR imagery, and has partnered with Veer.tv, a leading Chinese virtual reality distribution company, for future VR video distribution. Audiences are able to access VR historical imagery based on their GPS location and compass-orientation, facillitating AR-style tours of sites.


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A work-in-progress cyclorama of the 1871 Great Chicago Fire, to be released 10/2021.

The studio is currently producing interactive cyclorama experiences of antique panoramic paintings and photographs. Using VR headsets or web browsers, audiences can zoom and explore gigapixel images and trigger audio narratives embedded in the image.

Monumental screens

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A 2019 installation for the 150 MediaStream— the largest public screen in Chicago.

In addition, exhibitions and public screen displays are an important area of development for the studio. We are currently developing new design-methods for touchless interfaces for VR without using heads-up-displays, specifically for in-gallery exhibitions of VR content, and for public-space displays on monumental screens.



The Future Museum Studio values partnerships, consultancy relationships, collaborations, and support from multiple sectors.

John Russick, Visiting Director of International Projects

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John Russick

John Russick has held positions at Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History, the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History, and the Chicago History Museum. His digital initiative, the Chicago 00 Project, won a MUSE award in 2018 from the American Alliance of Museums and a Chicago Innovation award in 2019. In 2014, he forged an international collaboration between the Chicago History Museum and the Polish History Museum in Warsaw to develop an exhibition on the history of the Polish diaspora. In 1999, he designed the exhibitions for the Gordion Museum, near Polatli, Turkey, which was a finalist for the Museum of Europe award that year. His most recent articles, “Evaluating the Impact of Augmented and Virtual Reality” (2021) and "The Museum Inside Out" (2020) were featured in Museum, the American Alliance of Museum's magazine.



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    The Bartlett Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis, University College London.
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    SJTU Machine Vision and Intelligence Group, Dept. Computer Science, SJTU.
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    Dept. Architecture at School of Design, SJTU.
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    Interactive Media Arts program, NYU Shanghai.

Museums & Archives

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    Chicago History Museum, USA
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    Visual China Group, China.
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    Shanghai Center of Photography, China.


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    VeerVR (veervr.tv), China
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    Studio SpecialLand, 上海特与文化传播工作室, China.
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    LiYan Media Co., Shanghai.