It’s the next best thing to actually being there. Iolani Palace has debuted a virtual reality visitor experience, the first of its kind for a Hawaii museum.

Now visitors can do an online walkthrough of the royal palace that was home to the Kamehameha and Kalakaua dynasties. Assembled with 3D scanning technology, the virtual model captures all the grandeur of Iolani’s beautiful koa wood staircase, its bold Blue Room, where the royals spent most of their time engaging informal and smaller audiences, and eclectic artifacts like the pair of elephant tusks in the Gold Room gifted to King Kalakaua for his 50th birthday in 1886.

“We are always striving to enhance the visitor experience to Iolani Palace and a 3D virtual tour was the natural next step in providing greater access,” said Kippen de Alba Chu, executive director of The Friends of Iolani Palace in a statement. “The virtual tour is not a replacement for experiencing the Palace in person, rather it gives guests an opportunity to re-live a past visit, view artifacts in more detail, or take a glimpse into what they can expect on an upcoming trip to the Palace.”

The interface is seamless allowing for users to either stroll through the entire Palace space or jump to specific areas of interest through its “Highlights” browser.

Applications like this offer a great opportunity for the people to explore ancient monuments like they are really there. With the help of Virtual Reality and most importantly the help of the feeling of presence that Virtual Reality provides, the people will feel like they are really in the specific monument and that they are really exploring it. With the combination of appropriate storytelling and gamification elements (that are also studied along with the presence field by the Thematic Area 4 of the ViMM project), the perfect museum experience can be created, which can be very helpful for the preservation of cultural heritage.