The Participatory Museum of Denmark

At the OpenGLAM Workshop at the OKfestival last month, Merete Sanderhoff of the Danish National Gallery talked about the “Twitter as a mobile platform in museums project”. This autumn, nine Danish cultural institutions will be launching a beta version of the platform which connects artworks thematically across museum borders and allows users to post and share comments.

Filippino Lippi (c. 1457-1504), The Meeting of Joachim and Anne outside the Golden Gate of Jerusalem, 1497. License: CC-BY

In a recent interview with the Swedish Exhibition Agency Merete explains the project in more detail and talks about the next steps that will be taken.

##How does it work?

The idea is very simple. The museum adds a URL and a QR-code to the artworks in their physical collection. The visitors can take their smartphone and through the code or URL they get to the dedicated webpage of the artwork where relations with other artworks are shown. Here the visitor can discuss the artwork with others or ask questions to the curators who will give a swift response. This way the visitors of the museum become more than just a passive participant. They actively engage with the artworks and find out about other artworks, perhaps in other museums. And because the platform is so simple, it is easy to quickly leave a comment or question.

##Why use twitter?

The team behind the project has chosen not to custom-build a platform but to use Twitter’s API. Twitter only allows small messages and encourages links. These links can then direct back to the digital content on the museum’s webpage. There are many advantages to using an existing platform. First of all: it is free. The museums do not need to put in additional resources. It is also constantly updated and improved by the company itself which, again, saves money. Finally, and perhaps the most important, Twitter is where the people already are. Instead of trying to build a new community of people with new signups, the museum makes use of a huge community that is already there and therefore immediately can start participating with the museums.

##The participating museum

We will follow this project with great interest as it is one of the first major initiatives towards the ‘participatory museum’. In a recent article written by Nick Poole of Collections Trust and Historypin’s Nick Stanhope they examine the emergence of “a very simple but very important new idea about the social and professional function of museums.”

What emerges is a participatory museum, which uses the skills of curatorship, documentation and preservation to work with audiences to develop social capital. The museum benefits because it gets its collections digitised, tagged, shared and used. The user benefits because they can both make a material contribution to their culture and acquire new skills in the process. Society benefits because people go through their lives with a personal understanding of and attachment to the work we do.

Merete Sanderhoff also mentioned in the interview that they welcome all museums interested in participating and contributing to the project. “This autumn, when we can present the platform in action, I hope that more museums will learn how simple and easy it is to participate. If you have just 10-15 images in your collection that you can release under a Creative Commons license that is sufficient. If your museum has artworks that are in the Public Domain, feel free to contribute them to the platform and see what happens!”

##FACTS about the project

  • The project is supported by the Danish Agency for Culture.
  • Nine museums of various sizes and from several regions of Denmark are carrying out the project together. The museums contribute to the project by putting in digitized images and staff time.
  • All artworks in the project so far are in the Public Domain which means that their copyright has expired. To ensure correct attribution of the digitized images, the project uses Creative Commons-licenses.
  • All participating museums must earmark one person in their institution to post comments about their own artworks and reply to questions and comments from users.
  • Curious to learn more or participate in the project? Please contact Merete Sanderhoff on Twitter @MSanderhoff