Curating and participation via a new mobile platform
A new Danish mobile platform connects artworks thematically across museum borders and allows users to post and share comments. It is followed with great international interest.
– Often, free sharing of digitized artworks and collections is inhibited because the content is sealed off in individual museum websites and databases. We want to open up the gates and let the artworks communicate across museum borders, says Merete Sanderhoff, researcher at Statens Museum for Kunst and the initiator of the mobile-platform project.
Direct replies from curators
When the user stands with her smartphone in front of an artwork in one of the participating museums, short comments from other visitors and museum experts will act as eye-openers, provoking thoughts and reactions to the artwork.
The artworks in the platform are selected so they resonate with a number of related themes that connect them across collection borders, creating space for associations. Users are invited to share their reactions to the artworks and how they relate to each other. They can also pose questions directly to museum experts.
– It makes no difference if you are a museum professional or a visitor, everyone can have a voice and is encouraged to comment on the artworks, Merete Sanderhoff says. And she has already seen proof that the concept works.
– The users who have taken part in testing the concept love that they get to pose questions to the curators and receive a swift, direct response.
Limitation an advantage
The team behind the project has chosen not to custom-build a platform but to use Twitter’s API – Twitter being platform that people already use and that is automatically updated. They also looked into Facebook and Tumblr but decided to opt for the Twitter format with the 140 character limitation and opportunities to link to richer content on the Internet. So instead of spending resources on producing new content the project makes use of material already up on the websites of the participating museums.
– To be limited to 140 characters is an advantage. The users feel that contributing and leaving a comment is a manageable thing to do when the format is so short, Merete explains.
– And you can post a link, picture or video, connect things to each other. Twitter already contains all the functionalities we need.
So far, the mobile platform has only been tested on a conceptual level in paper prototypes. The challenge of encouraging users to take up and put the mobile platform into real use still lies ahead. Are people actually going to take out their smartphones or tablets when they are standing in front of an artwork? This autumn, a beta version of the platform is developed and tested. According to plan, the platform should be ready for launch over the winter and the project evaluated by April 2013.
The platform is born multilingual as it is built on Twitter and several international museums, among others in Amsterdam, Barcelona, Stockholm, and Washington D.C. are following the development.
– We 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
The mobile platform in action:
1. QR-code, URL and logo by the artwork
A museum visitor stands in front of the painting ”The Wounded Philoctetes”. Next to the painting sits a logo, a URL and a QR-code, a brief introduction to the experience, and an invitation to scan the code or enter the URL.
2. Open the mobile platform
The visitor takes out her smartphone, or a tablet borrowed at the museum, and scans the QR-code. The mobile platform opens up with an image of the artwork.
3. View comments and relations to other artworks
Below the image a stream of comments from other visitors and museum experts pop up. Among other things, the visitor can see links to another artwork that a curator has posted along with a comment that both artworks share a common theme.
4. Log in and participate
The visitor clicks on "Contribute". She meets a log-in window to Twitter. If she is not a user already, she can create an account. Active users can write comments and questions, post images, links and videos. The visitor writes a question to the curator.
5. Get a response
After a while, she recieves a response in the form of a reply from the curator, and another from a user who picked up on the thread. Everything posted in connection to a specific artwork is archived and can be viewed by other users.