One of the primary trends for museums I’ve been researching and discussing lately is their potential renewed role as curators of information in the digital age. The amount of online information approximately doubles every two years and when the 4+ billion people without internet access will start contributing, it will become ever harder to find the stuff that is worth your while online.
Google and Facebook are designed to tell you mostly what you or your friends already know, not to help you discover new things you didn’t even know existed. Museums often play this role in the real world and could do so in the digital world as well.
This means rather than digitise millions of objects for the rare geek googling his obscure interest, museums should use their unique knowledge about the collection to curate highly engaging stories that appeal to larger numbers of people. (Compare the excitement of the Wikipedia article about the Big Bang with a 60-second video.) Their curatorial function unbiased by commercial interests (such as Amazon, Booking.com and most blogs/online magazines) could fill an important void in the current web landscape.
I like how the Rijksstudio of the Rijksmuseum enables such behaviour (Holland’s best moustaches!) although it’s still too passive, too noncommittal. It’s still a collection, not a story. Another good example is the Facebook page of the Saatchi Gallery in London.
At the moment I’m engaged in several projects and experiments to use curation as a means to make art and culture accessible to the larger audience. Earlier this month a team of entrepreneurs, designers and other creatives launched De gulle ekster (‘The generous magpie’), one of these initiatives. De gulle ekster makes art and design more accessible to ordinary people, without making it extraordinarily expensive by carefully curating all that is on offer. Although it’s still too early to say anything definitive, the first public response was overwhelmingly enthusiastic. People really seem to appreciate someone to guide them through the curious but at times inaccessible world of art and culture.
Of course I’ll keep you posted on successes and lessons learned. For now, feel free to follow De gulle ekster on Facebook or Twitter (Dutchies only for now, I fear) and let me know if you are working on similar projects!
Full disclaimer: I work for and with the founders of De gulle ekster as their ‘ambassador-at-large’ (a title I kind of like). Of course this means I’m biased.
Header photo by Suresh Eswaran on Flickr.