VR helps University of Delaware professor teach art conservation | The Latest from WDEL News


Rockwood Mansion isn’t equipped to allow someone in a wheelchair to get to its second story paintings, so a University of Delaware professor is using technology to bring the art work to to her screen.

Dr. Joelle Wickens took her class to the 1850s era building recently, and while she doesn’t have the ability to climb the staircases, her students do, and through the power of Microsoft VR headsets, she can teach her class remotely.

Wickens is able to access the eyewear of her students, and virtually see what they see, while also having the ability to telestrate blemishes in the artwork.

Dr. Joelle Wickens looks at a painting through a the eyes of a student’s VR headset

“I have to guide them, and I have to describe to them what I’m seeing. They have to describe back to me what they’re seeing, and all of those skills actually are things that we’re trying to train them to be able to do.”

In one exchange with Art Conservation Specialist Margalit Schindler, Wickens asked for a better view of damage in a painting.

“Can you try a magnifying lens in there?”

Schindler gave her professor a better look, and they were able to sort out there was a tear.

“So that tells us that there’s a weakness in that spot that we need to be careful of,” Schindler said.

Wickens said she got the idea for using the VR headsets after seeing telemedicine catch on the during pandemic.

There are days she’s able to teach from not only the old building, but also from her office back in Newark.

Schindler pointed out that if the technology can help her professor, it could open the world for professors or leaders from anywhere to assist in the virtual classroom.

“There are folks all over the world who have specific, deep wells of knowledge, and this would allow us to connect to them.”

Just three years after the pandemic expedited video conferencing to the world, and as VR products from Microsoft, Meta, and others continue to become more popular, “live” classrooms are only becoming more expansive.

Dr. Wickens’ class may just be the start of what technology can do to help teachers teach, and students learn.