Museums are jumping in the creative space bandwagon and we have to wonder: how much of this is movement in skin deep and how much shows an deep change of mindset in our beloved institutions?

Matt Richards, founder of Hīnātore, Te Papa Museum’s recently open Learning Lab, tells us about his first museum lab building and how museums are actually key places for lifelong, meaningful and empowering educational experiences.

Classroom to lab: creating the possibility of change

“Te Papa wanted to replace its old classroom space with an innovative Learning Lab for school students and the general public. It wanted to increase engagement with collections, make learning experiential, utilise educational technologies and expand its learning community. I was contracted by Te Papa 11 months ago to lead the design and creation of the Learning Lab and its programmes. I’ve worked in education for the past 10 years as a teacher, director and technologist. I’ve created innovative learning centres, learning labs and makerspaces for schools and social enterprises in Australia and New Zealand. This is my first museum. What an adventure! Te Papa Tongarewa is an amazing and unique place. It’s the national museum and art gallery of New Zealand. Its mission to “change hearts, minds & lives” resonates in its exhibitions and willingness to innovate. Te Papa is currently undergoing a renewal process. The whole museum is evolving and changing. In 2016 it launched its new innovation incubator Mahuki to help create world leading digital experiences for the cultural sector. Hīnātore Learning Lab is the second innovation cab off the rank in Te Papa’s current evolution.

Hīnātore Learning Lab is a place to test and experiment. The exponential changes occurring in learning and technology have created a need for agility in museums. The Learning Lab is a place to try new ideas, technologies and learning experiences. What we are learning in the Lab is helping inform and catalyse change for the whole renewal process.

We created the Learning Lab in record time. This was due in large part, to the small (but high powered) team of specialists working on the project. The Hīnātore team are learning innovation specialists, educational technologists and (most importantly) lifelong learners. We reflect on and improve learning programmes daily. This level of agility requires stamina, growth mindsets and a capacity to pivot quickly. We were lucky enough to contract a couple of my former colleagues who I knew had the required skillset and mindset.

We ran a think-tank early in the development process. We invited school principals, students and teachers from across New Zealand to come and brainstorm what a museum Learning Lab could be. This consultation process informed our approach to the learner-centric and technology supported educational experiences we are offering.”

Learning with collections and technology (c)Matt Richards 2017

Learning first, technology second

“We utilise the 21st Century core competencies (Creativity, Collaboration, Communication and Critical Thinking), SAMR (Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, Redefinition) model and a modified Lean canvas as frameworks for programme development. We use a learning first, technology second approach. Once we clarify the learning objectives we experiment with emerging technologies to create exciting learning experiences not previously possible. We look for ways to extend access and deepen learning by combining collections, exhibitions and technology. 6 months ago we had some teachers from Auckland visit the museum to see the Pacific exhibition and collections. Their students were studying Pacific migration histories. We took them back of house into the Pacific collection to look at vaka (traditional Pacific sailing vessels). This visit highlighted how underutilised the collections are for learning purposes and inspired one of our current programmes, Pacific Explorers. We 3D scanned the vaka from the collection and 3D printed versions the students could handle and play with. Students design and 3D print their own vaka using web based cad software. They also make vaka with hands-on materials and craft. We import the digital 3D vaka into virtual reality (VR) and provide students the opportunity to sail on a vaka on a virtual Pacific Ocean. Using Google Earth and Google My Maps on touch tables, students collaboratively map their own personal migration stories. We provide students with smartphones to explore Tangata o le Moana: The story of Pacific people in New Zealand exhibition. They digitally gather evidence to explore migration stories and collaboratively discuss their discoveries. Students learn how to navigate using star compasses in VR and making traditional stick charts. We want to extend and enrich object based learning with technology.”

Lego drone from our upcoming Flying Machines Programme
(c)Matt Richards 2017

Tech made easy

“I choose technologies for the lab that support development of 21st Century core competencies. We use VR so learners can create and collaborate in real time with people who are geographically remote. We use 3D scanners attached to iPads so learners can easily scan collection objects and learn through the process. We chose touch tables because they are collaborative and support self-directed learning (the touch tables we chose respond to collection objects placed on them using fiducial markers and a tangible engine system). Accessibility is important. Where possible we chose technologies that are free (or inexpensive) so learners can continue to use them after their visit. In our Gallipoli Perspectives programme, students create their own VR experience of Gallipoli: The scale of our war exhibition using the Cardboard Camera app on smartphones. They experience and share their VR movies using Google Cardboard VR viewers.

Testing various technologies and planning in research and development time is vital. Intuitive tech is best. Technology that doesn’t need too much instruction to use. Technology that does its job and lets the learning happen. It probably helps that I’m a self confessed tech geek and spend a lot of my spare time tinkering and researching. :)”

Hīnātore Learning Lab
(c)Matt Richards 2017

Turning the tables on education

“We define “learner” as everyone , including us! We want to empower lifelong learning. I designed Hīnātore Learning Lab as a learning commons for everyone (students, public and Te Papa staff). Ako is a Māori term for both teaching and learning. The New Zealand Ministry of Education defines Ako as a non-hierarchical, reciprocal learning relationship. We can all learn from each other. The capacity to self-direct one’s learning is vital in today’s rapidly changing world. As Eric Hoffer once said, “In a world of change, the learners shall inherit the earth, while the learned shall find themselves perfectly suited for a world that no longer exists”.

We are engaging an external research partner to study Hīnātore Learning Lab and assess its effectiveness as a learning model. We also internally utilise feedback from learners to inform Hīnātore’s evolution. At this early stage, the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.

Personally, through creating the Learning Lab here at Te Papa I have learnt that museums can be a powerful force for change in the world. Museums can preserve the past and also help create the future. I believe Mr. Mandela was correct when he said “education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world”. When we combine museum collections and hands-on educational technologies, magic (and learning) happens!””

Matt Richards
Senior Advisor Learning Innovation
Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongawera

Matt is an education director, learning innovation leader and educational technologist. He has 10 years experience creating innovative learning environments, high performing teams and education programmes in schools, social enterprise and government organisations. Matt pioneered the maker education movement in Australian schools and founded an international games-based learning project. He employs emerging technologies to empower learners and build global learning communities. Matt is a Google Certified Innovator and Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert.

Discovering a new city is always a great excitement especially while browsing its museums.

If you want to attract creatives, really go for it

The Australian Center for Moving Image in Melbourne (Australia) offers dedicated creation spaces which are as rich and varied as its exhibition spaces to shape the happy makers of tomorrow. Thus, users can code games, make 360 VR movie, create animated movies and more, using the tech resources, conference room, green-screen, but can also browse the ACMI mediatheque or the Digital Learning Center (learn more on their website). A project worth highlighting is the national competition “Screen It” offering primary and secondary age students to build a game, shoot a short film or produce an animation for a national audience. 

Museum App: make it personal

Easy to access, easy to connect, easy to navigate, the mobile guide of the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne is also really personal. The navigation experience is in accordance with our wishes and desires, highlighting the type of works or the colour we like; the guide remains aside, ready to help if necessary,.

Human-centered, the guide will provide audio content for each major work in the collection. It can feature a comment by another visitor, an artist or a curator or music composed especially for the work, or a simple anecdote showing which helps create an intimate experience.

The mobile guide also enables visitors to download the images they like and to share them or keep them as favorites  on your phone. It is a simple but practical option when you love to get good reproduction of a painting.

Make it – Sell it

Your National Gallery of Victoria visit experience will be completed in the shop where you will discover the great line of branded products NGV! As part of its exhibition, the museum sells wallpapers designed by the artists, or hats inspired by collections. The NGV has also given carte blanche to different artists to inspire jewelers and create the contemporary art jewellery Piece of Eight Gallery in Melbourne. 

Our first publication is out and it opens the path for more in 2017! As a greeting for the New Year, we decided to look on the year past and select some especially marking moment for museums as we recorded them on our strategic monitoring blog Museum Trends.

For readers of Museum Trends, this shall not be a novelty, rather a newfound perspective beyond our yearly news coverage. We chose to highlight People to voice their own vision of the museum through their project and gathered our most read and marking interviews.

In the Museum trends Booklet, you will find all in one:

These talks shape re-shape the identity of a museum and what it is going to be in the years to come.

We hope to hear YOUR voice throughout 2017, in our Riga and Paris editions.

Click here to get your free copy of We Are Museums Ebook! 

From new experiential projects to creative spaces, museums act more and more like creative hubs and labs. In December 2016, the Science Museum Group launched their Digital Lab which aim is to analyze how museums dive into the digital age. With the earlier opening of the London Science Museum kids’ paradise “Wonderlab” and “Mathematics, a new display designed by Zaha Hadid Architects, the Science Museum Group is turning into a real futuristic experience-focused space for all types of audiences.  The Digital Lab is slated to become a great source of information on the evolution of museums and their role facing the technological developments supported by Samsung who fully sponsors the project. We interviewed John Stack, Digital Director and Dave Patten, Head of New Media at the Science Museum Group to better understand how the lab was born and where it is headed.

Work in progress — Lab 1: Virtual Reality Experience for Samsung Gear VR

We Are Museums: How did the project start? did the idea come from top deciders, practitioners or from an external actor? How is the project included in the Science Museum Group’ strategy? 

John Stack and Dave Patten: The Digital Lab is a core component of the Science Museum Group’s digital strategy.
The four museums in the Science Museum Group (Science Museum, London; National Media Museum, Bradford, Museum of Science and Industry, Manchester; and National Railway Museum, York) are all undertaking major projects to redisplay the collection. Digital technologies will, of course, be a fundamental component of these new displays and refreshed visitor experience.

However, digital technologies are evolving rapidly as is audience behaviour. Alongside, these large-scale projects which have a lifetime measured in decades, we could see all manner of exciting opportunities that can flourish without the constraint of long-term sustainability and which could also be pathfinder projects for future digital initiatives.

Indeed, the Science Museum already had undertaken a number of lab-like projects notably the point cloud scan of the Shipping Galleries and Web Lab and we are keen to see more of this activity.

The Digital Lab operates at the intersection of content, design, user experience and technology. Among the many areas which we are interested in exploring are:

• What kinds of immersive and augmented technologies can most effectively bring collection objects to life?
• How can new forms of digitisation and digital presentation of objects provide new forms of access?
• How can we best use digital to layer information for different museum audiences?
• How might location-aware mobile technologies enable audience to experience collection objects in the places where those objects have a significance?
• How might we build on the collection catalogue to create user interfaces that encourage new forms of exploration and discovery?
• What might the next generation on gallery digital content delivery be like?
• What new kinds of games might engage new audiences with the museums and their collection?

Work in progress — Lab 2: Enhanced digitisation for Mathematics: The Winton Gallery

We Are Museums: The Science Museum is getting much attention lately with WonderLab and the crowdfunding campaign for Eric, the UK’s first robot. What are the links between the Lab’s project and the other Science Museum’s innovation and digital projects?

John Stack and Dave Patten: The Digital Lab’s launch is aligned with the opening of Mathematics: The Winton Gallery, a stunning new display designed by Zaha Hadid Architects.

The three first Digital Lab projects are all related to or inspired by the Mathematics gallery:
• enhanced digitisation of objects in the displays,
• a VR experience around the Handley Page aircraft which is the centrepiece of the gallery,
• a series of hackdays using open data sets from the museum.
We Are Museums: Samsung is the founding partner of the Lab. What is their involvement in the project except besides the funding aspect?

John Stack and Dave Patten: Samsung are the founding partner of the Digital Lab and have supported the projects by sharing their expertise as we developed the VR experience. They will also play a part in the hackdays that we will announce in early 2017.

Work in progress — Lab 2: Enhanced digitisation for Mathematics: The Winton Gallery

We Are Museums: Did you get any help from someone to help implement new ways of thinking within the Science Museum Group? Did yourself or the team receive a special training to run the Lab? 

John Stack and Dave Patten: The Digital Lab will explore the tension between the relatively short life span of some digital technologies and the lifespan of a permanent museum gallery which can be upwards of twenty years. The Digital Lab is embedded in the the inhouse team and we’re looking to work with the best external partners we can who have expertise in specialised areas. For the Handley Page VR experience we’ve worked with the digital agency Preloaded, for the enhanced digitisation we worked with Drew Gardner and Tom Flynn from MuseumInABox, and for the hack days we’re working with Mar Dixon and Don Undeen.

We Are Museums: How is the project deployed in the 4 museums? How do you keep a sense of strategy and unity across museums? How are the teams organised?

John Stack and Dave Patten: At present the projects are all located at the Science Museum in London, but we absolutely intend to extend this to the other museums in the group.  In the New Year we will start to work closely with the other museums in the group to identify Digital Lab projects that respond to the key challenges they face.

We Are Museums: How will the results from the 3 projects be shared with the public? Does this project signal a wider collaboration with other science museums? 

John Stack and Dave Patten: The results from the projects will all be made public beginning in 2017. The VR experience will be available in the Mathematics gallery at certain times, the enhanced digitisation will be incorporated into online narrative stories around the collection and the hackdays will hopefully coincide with evening openings where participants will be able to present their work.

The Digital Lab will be regularly blogging about the work it is doing. Code and assets developed by the Lab will be made available for reuse via GitHub.

The Digital team at the museum has always been in regular contact with museum’s across the world but our hope is that the Digital Lab should make project based collaboration with other museums easier.

Well, this was a bit of a low-key information, but nonetheless exciting! The United Nations has announced the creation of the UN Live Museum for Humanity. The project is spearheaded by UN veteran of the Office for Project Services Jan Mattson, who will run the museum together with entrepreneur Henrik Skovby and none other than Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson. No doubt this is not the first time a renowned artist will serve at the board of a museum, but the UN Live Museum is moving into a new direction.


UN Live website

Conceived as a ‘global museum’, it will exist as a physical museum, which is currently under construction in Copenhagen, a network of UN Live hubs throughout the world and an open digital platform.

With the main aim to educate and create a better understanding of the UN’s activities across the globe and the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, the museum will share stories from UN workers and the people affected by crises in real time to create exhibitions based on interaction and learning.

The content and design has been created by Eliasson together with a team of people from UNESCO, the UN Office in Geneva, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Tokyo, the Olympic Museum and prominent universities, including Columbia University and the Alle School of Fine Arts in Addis Ababa. Needless to say that this is a considerable amount of input from Eliasson as far as shaping the project goes.


Ice Watch by Olafur Eliasson and Minik Rosing, Place du Panthéon, Paris, 2015. Photo: Martin Argyroglo © 2015 Olafur Eliasson.

Eliasson is hardly an odd choice, as he is known for large scale installations such as The Weather Project in the Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall, The New York City Waterfalls in the East River and, most recently, his intervention in the famous gardens of the Palace of Versailles. His installation work centres on perception and embeds social and environmental issues in the viewing experience. For the very conscious and engaged Ice Watch, he brought 80 tonnes of melted Greenland ice to Copenhagen in 2014 and Paris in 2015 for the COP21 climate conference.

Once collected, kept and exhibited, artists have developed and complexified their relationship to museums in significant ways. Artists have for long run their own spaces where they create, exhibit and sometimes sell their work outside traditional public and private institutions. But recently there has been an increased involvement of artists on the institutional level, as exemplified by Nicholas Serota’s artist-centred strategy for Tate, where artists are actively asked what they would like in a museum. Just a few days ago, the Internet Age Media platform reported on their collaboration with Tate Collectives, (random) co:jams, a series of agile and creative sessions which heavily featured artists, along with technologists and young people to try and repurpose the museum of the future.

For over a decade now, museums have given artists a carte blanche to create site-specific interventions. The Monumenta exhibition series at the Grand Palais in Paris has seen superstar artists such as Richard Serra, Anish Kapoor, and Huang Yong Ping present installations in the grand hall, and the likes of Jeff Koons, Takashi Murakami and Eliasson have created works for the Versailles Palace’s famous gardens. Turner-prize winner Grayson Perry scoured the collections of the British Museum for his 2010 exhibition, The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman.


Takashi Murakami in Versailles

On a more practical level, artists run workshops and educational programmes in museums. SFMOMA presented the Artist Initiative in 2014 with Ellsworth Kelly, Vija Celmins and Julia Scher as a collaborative and interdisciplinary research series, uniting curators, conservators, and art historians to pioneer new practices about the treatment contemporary art.


SFMOMA website

Many cultural spaces and museums, both private and public, also already have artists involved as board members, but Eliasson’s appointment to a prominent executive role at the UN Live Museum marks a change in the dynamics of artists at these institutions.

With an artistic practice emphasising direct experience and engagement, Eliasson brings his artistic strategies for tackling contemporary social and environmental issues to the museum. What we are seeing is the adoption of creative practices to the sphere of the executive in a non-art museum that emphasises the importance of immediacy to facilitate learning and create a collective understanding.

Eliasson has also become influential outside the sphere of art. He launched his social business Little Sun in 2012 and in 2015 he spoke at the World Economic Forum in Davos and participated in the COP21 climate conference. He also has a remarkable social media following with more than 200K followers across Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. With the direct communication between artist and audience offered by these platforms, Eliasson has emerged as an influencer and activist in his own right.

Artists are increasingly seen as creative professionals and influencers, making them an interesting and important recruitment for museums to shape their spaces and reach audiences. The appointment of Eliasson should not go unnoticed as it may well set a new precedent in the so far extremely fruitful relationship between artists and museums.

On a journey to discover the wonders of the Palladian Villas in the North of Italy, a stop at the Palladio Museum in Vicenza is an absolute must-see! The Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio is one of the most influential figures in the History of Architecture. His “Palladian Villas” were living spaces for the Venetian upper class in the countryside, inspired by symmetry,  perspective and Ancient Greek and Roman architecture in harmony with Nature and the surrounding rural community.

Hosted in the Palazzo Barbarano, one of Palladio’s finest palaces, the museum was made to “unite the intimacy of the Soane Museum, the serenity of the Menil Collection, the efficiency of the Whitney and the sheer spectacle of Guggenheim”  the Scandurra Studio, who created the museum, explained. 

1. Make the museum a workshop space



2. Show the experts behind the content

Visiting the museum makes it easier to understand the work process of Palladio. One starts the visit with the famous Four Books on Architecture (Palladio’s most important body of work) and his masterpiece, the Villa Rotonda built between 1566 and 1571 in Vicenza, then travels from one city to another to understand how his mind was shaped and how his villas were built. This definitely puts visitors in the right mindset to be able to really investigate Palladio’s work. The experience is really smooth and one absorbs knowledge without even realising.


This human touch is felt throughout the museum. You won’t find the regular cartel next to the works on display but a quote from a researcher. Then, one will enter a room and see an avatar of an expert giving you insights in Palladio’s work and life.


3. Ask artists to be your digital interpreters


To ensure reaching a wider audience, the museum commissioned video artist Filippo Romano to create video stories on Palladio’s buildings in the Veneto today.

To show that Palladio inspired villas are now all around the world, the Studio Scandurra created a dynamic one-arm bandit that lets you discover drawings of villas, their country of origin, architect and  date of creation.

4. No need to fool your audience, show what you don’t have

The Palladio Museum has no collection, only endless knowledge from researchers and a few drawings from the Master himself they borrowed from the Royal Institute of British Architects. That’s why it decided to create most of the work on display, asking artists to collaborate and showcasing models of the Villa via several types of media.

It also includes bigger-scale copies of old paintings, like below


5. Use your stairs!


Use the stairs to display the chronology and you will make sure visitors WILL read it!

From 10-12 November 2016 NEMO – the Network of European Museum Organisations, our long standing partner since the first edition of We Are Museums – is holding its 24th Annual Conference “Money Matters: The Economic Value of Museums” in Karlsruhe, Germany.

NEMO acts as a voice and network for over 30.000 museums and museum organisations throughout Europe providing them with information, networking and opportunities for cooperation and promoting their work and value to policy makers in Europe. The conference will explore the economic dimension of museums by looking at business models for museums that can lower financial dependency from public funding on the one hand and examining museum’s positive spill-over effects on different parts of society on the other.
In the wide spectrum of the economic value of museums, such as cultural tourism, job creation, regional competitiveness and development, cooperation and the creative industries, it will be discussed how museums in Europe can best open up to the manifold opportunities and engage in cooperation with other sectors.


In two panels, speakers will share best practice initiatives, examples, studies and strategic approaches showing the economic impact of museums, cooperation and partnerships, among them Sharon Heal, director of the Museums Association (UK) and Christoph Kremer, head of the Ars Electronica Center in Linz, Austria. This year, Paul Spies, who recently became chief curator at the Humboldt Forum Berlin, will be interviewed by our executive board member Sofia Tsilidou from the Hellenic Ministry of Culture. As always, on day two, a series of workshops offer hands-on activities to enable museum professionals to become active partners in and for the creative sector.
Participants will also have the opportunity to attend the meetings of NEMO’s Working Groups and join the talks by their guest speakers, as well as get to know the city of Karlsruhe during city and museum tours.
The programme of talks, workshops, meetings and cultural activities will bring together museum people from over 25 countries and connect them to the creative and economic sector, the EU and national policy makers.
If you want to connect to your European museum peers and relate to EU initiatives, programmes and policies, discuss with us at Karlsruhe Palace, home to the Badisches Landesmuseum since 1919!

This year, museum professionals who are members of an organization that is a member of NEMO or are members of We Are Museums receive a 20% discount on the registration fee!
Registration is open until 4 November 2016.
Find out more about the conference at or by following #moneymatters and #NEMOac16 on Facebook and Twitter!


Museums are undoubtedly a place to reflect. Reflect on the past, the future, our place in the present and our relationship to art, society and our environment.
Dubai is well-known for the Burj Khalifa (the world’s tallest building), the Dubai Mall (the world’s largest mall) and the artificial Palm Islands. As an ultramodern and fast-developing city, it only make sense that Dubai would be home to the Museum of the Future, a place to both showcase the world’s greatest innovations and develop ideas for our future.
Due to open in late 2018 in its final building, the Museum allows visitors interacting with state-of-the-art technology that could enhance in fields such as transportation, health and education. What if tech could tell us the mood people around are in or make us run at superhuman speed? Would you like it or would it worry you? Tech and AI make our lives easier every day, but how far are you willing to let go and give tech the power to smoothe tiny hurdles?


The museum’s goal isn’t only to have the audience reflect on who we will be in 20 years and what world we’ll live in. It also is to actually make the future happen. With very little natural resources compared to other countries of the area, Dubai feels the need to become a center of innovation and the museum is part of this idea: On the one hand, it will inspire young generations to become innovators themselves: on the other hand, it will include an innovation lab that will nurture projects for the city of tomorrow and should attract major companies like Google or GE, probably just in time to present prototypes at the World Expo 2020 that will take place in Dubai. It is not about predicting the future, it is about creating it and using the Museum of the Future as a place to experiment it.


For now, you can get a first glimpse of the Museum of The Future at the Madinat Jumeirah, where it addresses three big themes: how robots are artificial intelligence can improve the human mind and physical capabilities, if relations between humans and robots can become similar to inter-human relations and how will AI affect decision making… or even make decisions on its own.

Visiting the futuristic museum and interacting and playing with the devices is probably as close as a visitor can get to exploring the possibilities of a brand new world, leaving the museum with one question: “Do I think I can handle this?”


Do you remember why you started your museum’s Facebook page or Twitter account in the first place? We hope you do! For those of you who would still need arguments to convince their boss or curators that social media really is important, we asked Jonas Heide Smith from the National Gallery of Denmark (Statens Museum for Kunst – SMK) a few questions about the primary goals of a social media presence and about how to interact with a museum’s community and even leverage it to gain even more visibility.
Jonas Heide Smith has made the National Gallery of Denmark grow on social media by focusing both on the collections and on life in the museum, listening to the community and finding innovative ways to encourage people to visit the museum, to interact with them on social media and even to push users to create content themselves. Using his advice, you’ll be able to take a step back to have a global idea of what your social media strategy and its goals really are, and how it can be even more engaging for your audience, both online and on-site. Are you ready to shine bright like the National Gallery of Denmark?

And if you want to learn more about the National Gallery of Danemark’s social media strategy and get advice on expanding your own social media presence, don’t miss his keynote at WAM16 in Bucharest!


WAM: Why should a museum be present on social media?
Obviously, museums should do whatever furthers their specific goals and this does not necessarily entail social media. But that said, museums are particularly well positioned to take advantage of the visibility offered by social platforms. Indeed, these platforms are often a far more cost-efficient way to reach the public than traditional marketing channels. This should be reason enough for many, but it’s far from the only argument. For some museums it may be equally – or more – important that social media provide a way to connect much more directly to guest, fans, experts and the general public than has been possible in the past. It’s a real possibility to take part in the conversation on one’s subject and to play a part in the everyday (online) life of one’s community – whether geographical or interest-based.
In other words: Not every museum might need social media. But for most of us, it’s a no-brainer.


WAM: Social media sometimes seems like a superficial way to interact with a museum’s audience. Is it true? If yes, is it a bad thing?
What’s wrong with superficial? Most of our communication with even our closest colleagues and friends is superficial and that’s perfectly fine. We’d like the relationship with our audience to also have deeper dimensions but that’s what exhibitions, catalogues and, indeed, research articles are for. Then again, there’s obviously a fine line between superficial and silly – this line is important to find and to maintain. Humor is as fine as playfulness, but in general I think we should stay away from interaction for its own sake. We need to work a bit harder and find meaningful ways to integrate social media with the goals of our institutions, what I like to call “deep social”. This takes skill and practice (and sometimes we may miss the mark) but to me it’s the mark of successful digital museum communication.


WAM: Can you give the WAM community 5 tips to leverage their visitors to become visible on social media?
Well, I’ll certainly try:
1. Think of it as a genuine, ongoing task. It’s not primarily a campaign effort but rather something that takes time and resources. One work hour per platform per day is not completely off the mark – if you want to post content AND convincingly be part of the community.
2. Set up simple monitoring to spot content that you can reuse on your own channels. Ask nicely for permission and then thank and feature anybody willing to let you share.
3. If at all possible, forget about limiting visitor photography. Encourage it as much as you can – and if you do need to limit it (whether because of copyright issues or selfie stick-inferno) make sure to explain yourself. People can usually accept rules if they are told why they are in place.
4. Invite the social media community into your museum. Instagram walks can be very fruitful and once you’ve done a few you’ll probably find that they are quite manageable and even fun to do.
5. See if you can showcase social media contributions inside the physical museum. A screen of selected Instagrams in the lobby? Or, if you’re feeling adventurous: A screen of UN-selected photos shown in real-time. This can massively inspire guests to take part in the “conversation” around your museum, your exhibition and your collection.



To celebrate the museum’s 200th anniversary in 2015, the Städel Museum (Frankfurt-am-Main, Germany) has launched several digital platforms making clever use of data to offer the audience entirely new forms of online access to works and exhibitions when browsing the Städel collection.


By artist, by movement, by country… Digitized collections on museum websites are always pretty much organized the same, and navigation never feels really organic and natural, let alone fun. But it can be, as proven by the Städel Museum.
Of course, you can still browse in a classical way, by century, artist or medium, but you can also roam the collection thanks to the extensive use of data, semantic searches and thematic relationships.


This innovative, cloud-based media data platform allows you to skip from one artwork to another by choosing what they should have in common: the effect it has (scary, irritating…), elements like color or objects, the atmosphere (secret, trust, tension…), the main subject, the part of the collection it belongs to, etc. Along the way, users can save their favorite artwork to a personal space, from which they can choose any two artworks and compare them to see what they share.


Of course, users can also learn about the exhibits, especially through videos they appear in, like exhibition trailers.
The exhibits platform, launched in the spring of 2015, works on desktop and tablets, is still in beta test phase and users are invited to participate in its development by offering feedback. It is only in German for now, but check it out and click around, the intuitive interface should quickly give you a good idea of how serendipity and a simple interface make browsing through the rich collections of the Städel Museum both fun and creative.



For its anniversary, the Städel Museum invited other museums like Tate, the National Gallery in Dublin, the Musée d’Orsay or the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza to lend artworks that can create a dialogue with works from the Städel collection.
The digital platform shows what those artworks have in common and how their differ, juxtaposing them also with quotes from artists or the Bible about the artworks to put them in context.


The Digitorial allows a new type of exploration of the collection thanks to the creation of new bridges with other collections. Visitors can discover artwork in a way they did not expect, but that is still seamless, fun and intuitive.

This type of Grimme Online Award winning Digitorial was also used for the Monet exhibition in Spring 2015. Users could discover details and the story behind masterworks thanks to the platform.


The Städel Museum’s Digitorials create strong storytelling experiences, keeping users interested thanks to several formats, alternating pictures, text, video and sound. They prove to be great resource for all types of audience, whether you like getting lost in an intuitive experience or you are looking for great quality research material. Talking about which, the Städelmuseum is now creating an Art History Online Course with the Leuphana University (Lüneburg)! We love how data is being put to good use to project the museum’s wealth of knowledge outside of its walls.

Learn everything about how the Städel Museum imagines and sets in life those experiences by grabbing your ticket for We Are Museums 2016 to listen to Axel Braun!