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N. 2020-1-DE02-KA227-ADU-008153

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On digitization and the future of museums

Reinventing oneself, in many aspects, has been one of the key concepts in this pandemic, often associated with social networks or digitization. Museums are one of the most affected sectors, and far from being left behind, they have jumped right on the digitalization trend. They have been closed or with limited capacity, so they have had to reinvent themselves to adapt to this new reality. During the months of confinement, they thought of everything: virtual exhibitions, guided tours, conferences, web museums, contests and popular challenges. Rarely has art generated so much interest. Many of the museums were overwhelmed by the attention: during the confinement, the Prado Museum had to hire more servers (from 2 to 10) to support web visits, and the Louvre increased its virtual visitors tenfold in one day (March 19), from 40,000 to almost 400,000.

Online visit for children – The Prado Museum

Most of the world’s most famous museums have opened a virtual door to their works. The Sistine Chapel in the Vatican, the Louvre in Paris, or the Prado Museum in Madrid, are examples of this. From their websites we can access, free of charge, to their galleries, and even study their works.

Other museums such as the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, go further and besides letting us see their galleries from the website, have sought to reinvent themselves. They created Rijksstudio, a project that invites the public to create their own masterpieces by downloading images of works of art from the collection and use them creatively. An innovative digital application that makes a large part of the museum’s collection available to everyone, without spending a cent.

 

Make-up pallet by Ezgi Kiral, Rijksstudio Awards 2020 winner

For the first time we were able to enter museums that otherwise we might not have seen. Not everyone can afford a plane ticket, pay the museum entrance fee, take a day off. Thanks to digitalization, from the comfort of our couch we can sneak into the Louvre and see, for example, Leonardo da Vinci’s most famous work, the Mona Lisa. Most of the works also offer information about their author, context, and even explain the techniques used and a brief explanation of each technique.

So, the fact that museums have had to shut their doors does not mean that they are inaccessible, because the “digital window” still remains. Or so it should be. Digitization is one of the great urgent objectives of many museums, which often have not been able to work these resources for lack of budget.

The big question is, will the online offer replace the traditional visit? It’s difficult to believe that museums will be able to continue with such intense implication on their websites once their doors are open. The staff that are or were once in charge of uploading content, will have to be back in their positions. In addition, the museum experience is unique, even the same person repeating in the same gallery can experience it differently each time.

 

Image from the Louvre Museum’s app ‘Mona Lisa: Beyond the Glass’

The new options we can suddenly find online now give an amazing added value to the art world. They bring art closer to a wider audience and make them involved. Museums are more approachable hence more inclusive. But will this interest remain once things go back to “normal”?

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