Mount’s iROC spring series kicks off with “Virtual Reality in the Art History Classroom”

February 06, 2017


Elizabeth Cappello, Mount Saint Mary College adjunct art professor, discusses virtual reality in the classroom. 


Ever wish you could explore an Egyptian pyramid, the Parthenon in Athens, or just get close to some of the world’s greatest art masterpieces? Elizabeth Cappello, Mount Saint Mary College adjunct art professor, explained how anyone can do just that with a cellphone and a cardboard device that folds into a small box.

Cappello – who kicked off this semester’s Investigating Research on Campus (iROC) series with “Virtual Reality in the Art History Classroom” at the Kaplan Family Library and Learning Center on February 2—discussed how she stumbled upon Google Cardboard and gave her art history class at the Mount an exciting spin.

“Typically, art history is a lecture and a text book with pictures,” said Cappello. “But in today’s world, that kind of learning really doesn’t work well.”

The idea for merging virtual reality technology into her art history class came to her last year after receiving a Google Cardboard with her New York Times subscription. Cappello, however, said she initially tossed it aside. “I didn’t pay it much mind and it kind of sat in my house for a little bit before I put it together.” She adds that once she downloaded the Google Cardboard app and began using the simple device, “it was incredible.”



A Mount Saint Mary College student uses Google Cardboard, an inexpensive gateway into the world of virtual reality. 


Using the inexpensive item – it’s typically sold for $6 to $12 – students in her art history class were able to tour locations like the Parthenon, the Frank Lloyd House, the Chrysler Building, and other well-known architectural works.

“It really enhances the learning experience. When you have the virtual reality component you are moving your body and touring the locations as if you were there, and getting in close to art pieces that you would only normally see in photographs,” said Cappello.

“It was a great experience,” said Eric Flores of Newburgh, N.Y., a freshman and one of Cappello’s art history students. “It kind of allows you to travel around the world without traveling.”

Attendees of the lecture got the opportunity to use the Google Cardboard device and even pondered the use of virtual reality in other fields such as psychology, medical fields, and the business world.

Cappello has been an adjunct at the Mount for five years. She runs the technology department for one of the schools in the Newburgh School District and is pursuing a Masters of Fine Arts in New Media and Web Design.

The goal of iROC is to “provide a forum for Mount faculty, staff, and students to showcase their research endeavors with both Mount Saint Mary College and the local community in a manner easily understood by attendees,” explained series coordinators Evan Merkhofer, assistant professor of biology, and Jennifer Park, assistant librarian for access and outreach services. Presentations include research proposals, initial data collection, and completed research projects.