In building upon their year-long commitment to the ‘Faithful’ despite challenges posed by Covid-19 amidst a national pandemic, the San Francisco 49ers today announced the creation of a virtual tour program showcasing the 49ers Museum and its 20,000 square foot facility dedicated to the Niners' storied history.
The opening of the virtual museum falls on the anniversary of Super Bowl XXIX, in order to honor the franchise’s last Super Bowl victory (in 1995). The physical 49ers Museum, which was constructed in 2014 with the help of multi-year partner Foxconn Industrial Internet, features 11 unique gallery and exhibit spaces spread out over 20,000 square feet inside Levi’s Stadium.
Jesse Lovejoy, the director of the 49ers Museum, believes the physical museum brings fans a great deal of happiness and belonging, helping them connect with other people in their lives, from family members and friends to others they’ve just met.
“The 49ers' fanbase is one of the best in the world,” Lovejoy told SFist in a Zoom interview this week. “Being the leader of a building that was made for them and then watching them go through that experience never gets old.”
As the depository of all 49ers history, the 49ers Museum was looking forward to commemorating their 75th anniversary in a place that’s captured those 75 years. With the public being barred from entry to Levi’s this year following health and safety guidelines from the City of Santa Clara, Lovejoy and the museum partnered with Mass Interact, one of the world leaders in interactive virtual tour experiences, to create an engaging, immersive experience for the Faithful. The virtual tour offers fans all over the globe a chance to experience the greatest 49ers moments from the last 75 years.
Boasting advanced features and a captivating storyline, the 360-degree experience will take fans through the 11 unique galleries and exhibit spaces that exist in the physical museum, including The Morabito Theatre, The Heritage Gallery, the In The Game series of interactive challenges and exhibits, and more.
While everyone relates to a different area of the physical space the most, The Bill Walsh Gallery stands out as a highlight in the virtual tour.
"Because of who Bill Walsh was, not just one of the most important minds ever in the game of football, but his approach to how he treated people, and the way he thought about diversity,” Lovejoy said, “he’s been able to make an imprint that’s still felt on the franchise today. That gallery, when you look at it, is a nice mix of what we do well [in the museum].”
The virtual tour is meant to be as close to the physical museum as possible. A great deal of extremely high-level 360-degree photography was utilized to create an immersive walk through the building as it exists today.
One of the biggest challenges of pulling something like this off, however, was more philosophical than anything.
“When you’re in a museum, you just pick and choose what you want to look at,” Lovejoy explained. “When it’s an interactive experience, you’re being fed it, to a degree. You see things differently.’
In that vein, the virtual museum tour is still entertaining for the hardcore fan that’s been to the physical space already, as it provides a new experience for looking at a lot of the same celebrated history. The 49ers Museum also plans to be adding to the virtual museum as they progress, while always staying hyper focused on the current team and current season.
“We are already developing content that will be included in the virtual tour as we go along,” Lovejoy told SFist. “We are constantly working on it. We have it to a place now that we want to get it out, but in some ways we’ve only just scratched the surface with what we’ll be able to do with it, how we can use it, and how we can offer it as a service to people.”
Growing up in Santa Cruz with a love of the 49ers in his heart, this role has been a triangulation of several passions for Lovejoy.
He tells the story of a fan from the Netherlands who made it out to Levi’s Stadium in 2018 for the first time. This Dutch Niners enthusiast, a collector of team memorabilia and avid aficionado, reached out to Lovejoy before coming to California, and the 49ers Museum Director was able to organize a special showing of the space.
“You could see how much it meant to him to be in the museum, be a part of the history he’s been a part of forever,” Lovejoy said smiling. “It speaks to the building, and this virtual museum tour will be a way to deliver that in some small fashion to anybody out there that wants to have that moment.”
The new virtual tour program is free and will provide the Faithful with their first opportunity to explore the 49ers Museum since the facility closed in March. Head on over to the 49ers Museum website to check it out.
Top Image: Courtesy of the San Francisco 49ers