Sunday, March 10, 2013

Pinterest meets the Rijksmuseum

Today's post is about a makeover of the website of a major museum.  In essence it's about
  • how to make the images within the collection of a major museum much more accessible to all those interested in art.
  • how to download images for your own personal use
  • PLUS how to create your own collections - much in the same way people create boards on Pinterest - or create collections in the Google Art Project.
The museum in question is the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam - and the new website precedes the reopening of the museum next month after 10 years of renovation, restoration and alteration.  It's also making itself more accessible by being the first museum in the world to be open every day of the year.
After 10 years of renovation, the completely renewed Rijksmuseum will open on 13 April 2013.

The Rijksmuseum will be the first major national museum in the world to be open to the public 365 days per year. The museum will be open daily from 9 am to 5 pm. Admission will be €15, the museum remains free for children under 19.
Before I write more, I first want to thank some people.

First of all thanks to Moira McLaughlin who wrote about it last week on her blog Dog Art Today - see Downloading the Rijksmuseum: Masterpieces for Everyone.

Then Karen Robinson (Dog and Pet Paintings) who sent me the link as she knew it would interest me!  Thanks to both of you.

Finally - thanks to Charlie Parker (Lines and Colors) who I just knew would already have written about it!  I only occasionally get to beat Charlie to the blogging about a new development.  He has also written a very helpful post about the new website development which you can find here New Rijksmuseum website.

Two developments

There are two specific developments - both of which are aimed at making the art in the Rijksmuseum more accessible.
  • a new design for the museum website - which makes the art in the collections much more accessible and the information about the museum much better structured
  • a new site - the RijksStudio - which allows you to do things with the art in the collection once you've found the art you like
A new website

I remember the old website.  It was very traditional - lumbering even.  The new website is very much second decade of the 21st century.  It's very simple and very image oriented.  All the old material is still there but is now much better presented in three simple categories:
  • Plan your Visit
  • Collection
  • About the Museum
Explore the Collection - navigation 
The big difference is that the emphasis is now on the artwork itself.

The emphasis on navigation is about keeping it simple - and popular.  In fact there's a major sense that this is a website which has been made for the public rather than art historians and curators!
  • their 'treasures' are highlighted - for example here's the Vermeer page
  • you can look much more easily at works of art in their different manifestations.  Here's three examples
    • Paintings / Daily life (paintings) - each page suggests other pages which might be of interest.  Thus it suggests ways to surf the collection.  It's very easy to get caught up in this.  One can imagine a game where you have to work out to get from one part of the collection to another using the minimum number of moves based on 'related pages'!  (Well you can if you're me!)
    • Applied Arts / Textiles - when the only related page is "owls" you just have to click it!
    • Works on Paper / Drawings - before you know it you start clicking the images and getting ones which completely fill your screen.  Small cramped images where you have to press buttons to make larger have been dumped.
  • you can also find artists you like - or want to know more about - or subject matter (oddly still life and flowers are missing) or styles
  • I love some of the categorisations which now crop up based on the content of the paintings in their collection.  Brief background data and explanations are provided for each category.
  • you can download AND alter the very large high definition images.  Moira McLaughlin in her post demonstrated what can be done by extracting the picture within a painting.
  • The research area has some more interesting and accessible information than some museums.  Note - artists interested in developing their skills in painting may be intetested to know that they're holding an International Symposium on Painting Techniques, Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, 18, 19 and 20 September 2013.  It's actually aimed at museum bods - which seems a bit odd. 
The central theme of the symposium will be the technical study of historically used painting techniques, the historical painting materials, their origin and trade, and their application in the painter’s workshop.
  • In addition, the museum website still has all the normal information such as information you need to know if intending to pay a visit or wanting to know how you can do some research.
I find the layout as a whole gives me a much better impression of the works in the collection than the previous website - plus it's absolutely amazing to be able to see such large images.

The search facility - as often happens on the websites where English is not the first language - is still a bit of a hot and miss affair.  I rather suspect they still have some way to go when it comes to tagging all the images for search purposes.

However the selection of images works much better as they're a decent size and you're able to make out what the painting looks like without having to click it to see what it is.

The Rijksstudio

The vision for the Rijksmuseum in the 21st century is for it to be a modern museum.

It's been apparent for a long time that one the ways in which museums raise revenue is by making their images more accessible for use in an applied art sense - most often as prints, cards and calendars.

The Rijksstudio provides an opportunity to:
  • create sets of similar items that I like - very much like one might do in Pinterest.  You can see the overview of a couple I made very quickly below.  Those familiar with my sketches and drawings will not be surprised by the subject matter!
  • make something with the images you like - see From shirts to scooters ... tips and examples - however I haven't tried this bit!
All of the images in the Rijksmuseum’s online collection are high resolutions. So the printout of your favourite works and details will look great, as a poster, canvas, aluminum, Perspex or on a greetings cards set.
What's very odd is that you can extract an image from an artwork and cut it down for use in applied art.  Normally museums are very keen that you reproduce the whole artwork - but in a size suitable for the Internet and with all the copyright information intact and present.

The images which you search to create the set of images are those which appear on the museum website - very large and very good definition.
Two sets I created in Rijksstudio (by makingamark)
They provide links to various websites which offer different forms of online printing on demand.  They may well be reputable websites but to my mind they could be rather more integrated into the website rather than standalone operations.  The nature of the relationships could also be spelt out a bit more clearly.

It seemed to me that the scope of the options offered enable people to in effect set up the equivalent of Zazzle shops creating merchandise based on artwork in the museum's collection.

I guess at the end of the day maybe the Museum has noticed that the ordinary consumer very often does as good a job if not better than the dedicated designer.  I must confess I'm one of those people who goes to an exhibition and then comes out ready to experience the merchandising - only to find I'm very disappointed by the images that the professional designers have chosen.

It may well be the business model started by the Rijksmuseum may catch on with other museums and become more widespread.  It'll be interesting to see what happens next.

Note:  "Who's made a mark this week?" will be published tomorrow.

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  1. Hi Katherine _ Thank you for sharing my post with your readers. It is an exciting time to be an artist. Your blog is fantastic. I'm honored to be featured on it. Best regards, Moira

  2. P.S. The link to Karen Robinson's page is incorrect. Right now it is linking to my website, not hers.

  3. Whoa! This is amazing that the Rijksmuseum is doing this for the art loving public! Thanks for sharing it on your blog :)



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