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UN plans to build a virtual museum of stolen cultural objects

Call: Virtual Museum of Stolen Cultural Objects

Buyer: UN agency

Background: The Virtual Museum will represent a breakthrough for the international community’s efforts to raise awareness among the relevant authorities, culture professionals and the general public, notably young generations, on the trafficking of cultural property and on the importance of protection of cultural heritage. It will use 3D and virtual reality technologies to present stolen cultural property and provide didactic spaces dedicated to education and scientific research, that will include testimonies of the communities of origin of the cultural property, the stories behind each object, and information on how the illicit trafficking of cultural property works – and the ways in which it can be prevented. It will contribute to raising awareness among the relevant authorities, culture professionals and the general public, notably young generations, on the importance of protecting cultural heritage and monitor return and restitution efforts, as appropriate, with the aim of ensuring the full recovery of all identified objects.

UN is currently launching the first phase of the project, which aims to elaborate a first version of the Museum with 600 exposed cultural properties. Once the first phase is complete, it will be important to continue to update the Virtual Museum with cultural property recently stolen and current testimonies from local communities, and regularly launch new exhibitions, as well as to highlight recent restitutions of stolen cultural objects.

Objective/ deliverables: UN is looking for an interactive production studio with a proven record of creating virtual experiences for global audiences to create the first version of the Virtual Museum of Stolen Cultural Objects.

The main objectives of the services provided by the production studio will be the following:

1.To build a Virtual Museum of cultural objects in accordance with drawings and plans provided by an architectural firm, contracted separately by UN.

2.To create the exhibited cultural objects in 2D and 3D.

3.To setup an easy to maintain online digital platform which will host the Virtual Museum of Stolen Cultural Objects and that can be used to manage the digital collection and the virtual museum adding or removing objects and galleries (exhibitions).

Outputs – The contractor shall:

1.Develop a platform for the Virtual Museum of Stolen Cultural Objects, accessible to the public, providing – but not limited to – the following functions:

i. An interactive 3D environment that allows visitors to explore the museum’s exhibitions;

ii. High quality digital images and models and descriptions of the items exhibited (based on the list sent by UN);

iii. A user-friendly interface that is easy to navigate;

iv. A search function to allow visitors to easily locate exhibits and artefacts.

2. This platform and its content should be compatible on desktop and mobile versions, with an extended compatibility on virtual reality devices/platforms such as Google Cardboard & Oculus.

3. Digitize over 300 two dimensional objects and over 300 three dimensional objects (using AI). As the objects have been stolen, limited images, descriptions are available. AI can be used to enhance the reconstructed models.

4. Provide museum map and exhibition rooms for the Virtual Museum, based on the sketches provided by the architect in charge of the design (see sketch below for an overview of the Museum design).

5. Ensure that the design of the Museum fully conforms with the design and plans provided by the aforementioned architect.

6. Provide a first prototype of the Virtual Museum and the supporting proposed infrastructure by August 2024 for review and feedback.

7. Guarantee the upkeep (technical support and maintenance) of the Virtual Museum after the implementation of the project, including training on digital collection management, troubleshooting and bug fixes for a period of 2 years following the project’s completion.

This maintenance would cover:

▪ Corrective Maintenance: fixing blocking (minor or major) bugs and restore museum platform to a working condition, including compatibility with new versions of browsers, tasks can be either planned or unplanned.

▪ Preventive Maintenance: security update on the different technical stacks (backend, frontend).

▪ Upgrade Maintenance: modeling of new artworks or new museum rooms beyond the defined scope of 600 artworks.

8.Maintain open communication with UN throughout the project, providing regular updates and progress reports related to the platform design, architecture, software development, and maintenance.

Activities: Activities include, but are not necessarily limited to, the following tasks. The Consultant can, based on its technical experience, add other activities it finds relevant to achieve the expected output.

The contractor shall:

1. Produce a 3D global layout of the premises, galleries and the environment of the Virtual Museum;

2. Produce a modular management of the rooms and ensure the objects are adequately displayed in collaboration with the architectural firm;

3. Create 3D models and animations of the exhibited cultural object, allowing visitors to interact with the exhibits and explore the museum virtually;

4. Create a user-friendly interface, including menus, buttons, and navigation tools that enable visitors to move around and interact with the exhibits;

5. Optional: A multiplayer mode in the experience (creation of fake avatars for the visitor);

6. Propose for the implementation of the assignment, and methodology reports, work plan, expected results, human resources, outputs and timeline;

7. The digital studio will provide UN, the communication firm and the architectural firm access to their work in progress to ensure the proper implementation of the project.


• UN will facilitate access to the relevant UN staff members’ expertise.

• UN will provide a summary of the Organization’s existing resources.

• UN will provide a support staff that will serve as a full-time focal point for this initiative and work closely with the contractor’s team.

• UN will provide all the artworks + complete backstories.

• UN will facilitate access to architectural firm drawings and plans.

• UN will provide a complete list of cultural objects to integrate in the museum.


The contractor should maintain regular exchanges of information with UN throughout the implementation of the project. This is aimed at ensuring compliance with UN’s standards and requests.

The contractor shall submit to UN:

• A comprehensive technical report outlining the proposed software and hardware requirements, and development process;

• A project management report containing an overview of the project management process, including a summary of project milestones, budget, and timeline, as well as any challenges or issues that arose during the project;

• Monthly reports on the progress of the project implementation;

• A report outlining the potential improvements and enhancement of the virtual museum, including new features or technologies that could be added in the future.

The contractor shall promptly notify UN of any modification or delay on the agreed upon programme timeline.

Minimum content of proposals

• Firm registration documents, business profile, capability statement, presentation, and credentials.

• List of reference linked to proven experience to respond to qualification requirements.

• Complete curriculum vitae of proposed key experts to be assigned to the project, levels of efforts and roles descriptions.

• Description of your understanding of the project’s requirements.

• Description of the technical approach based on the Terms of Reference.

• List of equipment/material required for the work assignment.

• Responsiveness of proposed platform to set technical functionalities/ requirements should be clearly reflected in bidders technical proposal.

• Detailed work plan and project time frame.

• A sound Risk Mitigation Plan (RMP) should be developed, identifying risks and mitigation strategies for each step of the project.

• Completed and signed annexes (all applicable ones).

• Clear description of the following criterias,:

– Project methodology – explanations on how the studio will organize the different teams, and the different project phases;

– UX – list of the functionalities, user journey and navigation;

– UI – explanations on mockups or graphical intentions, based on the sketches provided by the architectural firm in charge of the Museum design;

– Development :

o Virtual Museum:

▪ Artistic direction (overall vision) :

• Graphic identity, page variations

• Interactions, micro-animations

• Navigation design

▪ 3D modeling :

• Based on the elements provided by the architectural firm

• Main stage, hallways, master and secondary rooms

• 3D files optimization, baking, export

▪ Integration of interfaces :

• Project architecture

• Integration of screens and content pages

▪ WEBGL Development :

• Integration and development of 3D scenes

• Camera movement

• Static and dynamic points of views

▪ Headless CMS :

• Configuration

• Data management (editorial content, works)

▪ Sound Design :

• Loop ambiance

• Interface sounds

o Cultural Objects

▪ Data Retrieval

▪ 3D artwork : Depthmap / 3D Model :

• Generation of depthmaps

• Retouching and graphic processing

• Generation of statues

• Optimization, texturing and export

▪ 2D artwork : Frame

• Generation of 2D frames

• Retouching and graphic processing

▪ Content Contribution / Data Import and export

– Check before the delivery: what methodology will you use to ensure that the website is correctly functioning?

– Deployment(s): what procedure will you use to deploy online modifications or optimization of the future website ?

– SEO: what strategy will you adopt to ensure the good quality of the SEO (search engine optimization)?

– Data analytics (analysis not included) – what solution will you use to analyze the performance of the website?

– RUN / maintenance

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