Amsterdam DNA, a major step in the renewal of the Amsterdam Museum


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"Amsterdam DNA, a major step in the renewal of the Amsterdam Museum", Occasion: Lisbon Workshop of project "A Tripartite Cooperation to Developing City Museology", (Marijke Oosterbroek, Lisbon, July 10, 2012).

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  • Before I start, let me introduce myself. I work for five years at the Amsterdam Museum. Before that I worked in various jobs for the City of Amsterdam. Within these jobs, my focus was always on Information and Communication Technology (in short ICT) and on communication with the public, colleagues and other institutions. Within the museum, I'm responsible for E-culture. By E-culture, we mean every aspect of the culture that has something to do with ICT. My responsibility reaches from the development and maintenance of the ICT infrastructure, to the way we interact with the public in exhibitions and on the world wide web. The aim of my presentation is to picture the development of the first part of the renewal of the permanent collection of the Amsterdam museum: Amsterdam DNA. Before going into details, I will introduce the Amsterdam Museum and show you how Amsterdam DNA fits in our plans for the coming years.
  • The museum was founded in 1975, to give the historical collection of the city of Amsterdam its own museum. The building complex of the Amsterdam Museum used to be an orphanage. It has three beautiful courtyards. In the summer, one of the courtyards has a lovely terrace. The museum is next to the Kalverstraat, which is probably the most important shopping street in Amsterdam. Because of the closed character of the building, a lot of people don't know that we are so near by. Within our premises, we have a famous public street (de Schuttersgalerij) where people can see artworks for free. People can also see small exhibitions without in the old lockers of the orphans in one of the courtyards.
  • Up to 2011, the name of the museum was Amsterdam Historical Museum. Begin 2011 our name changed to Amsterdam Museum. We changed the name because a lot of people associated the term historical with ancient history. This is not in line with the identity we want to present as a modern city museum.
  • In 2009 we as managers, together with several specialists of the museum, formulated the following mission: "The Amsterdam Museum brings the history of the city to life, for a widest possible and maximum diverse audience. The Amsterdam Museum challenges residents and visitors, to deepen their relationship with the city." By saying 'brings the history of the city to life' , we want to emphasize, we not only want to share knowledge about the history of Amsterdam, but we also want people to relive that history. With the phrase 'challenges residents and visitors' , we want to accentuate, we attempt to use inspiring methods to stimulate activity and interactivity. If we state 'to deepen their relationship with the city' , we want to highlight, we hope to improve the relationship of people, with Amsterdam. And if we say 'for a widest possible and maximum diverse audience' , we want to express, we try to reach everybody who has a connection with Amsterdam, not only the traditional museum visitors, but for instance, also immigrants and people not used to visiting museums.
  • In addition to our mission and vision, we formulated three primary target groups: tourists from the Netherlands and abroad, all residents of the Amsterdam region, and people who feel connected to Amsterdam, all people undergoing education related to Amsterdam. Around 200,000 people a year, visit our exhibitions. We estimate that at least 60 to 70 percent of these visitors are foreign.
  • The Amsterdam Museum has a rich collection of more then 85,000 objects from the Middle ages until recently. Within the collection, there are many objects of great art-historical value. Only around 10 percent of the collection is on display for the public. Because we believe that a public collection should be visible to the public, we put our complete collection database on the web. People can use all the information as they like (if we have the rights). We also have a free Iphone app available with all the information on our collection (and more).
  • We are working on a new permanent exhibition. This means not only changing the galleries, but it also means reconstructing the building. Therefore, the project will take 4 to 5 years. Because we want to stay open while we are renovating the museum, we change the permanent exhibition in parts. One of the first parts was renewed, is Amsterdam DNA, our exhibition for tourist and first-time visitors. I will tell you all about that later. The second part is The Little Orphanage. Here children between 4 and 12 years old, can get acquainted with the original function of the museum building in a very playful and interactive way. In the coming years, we will design at least two more permanent presentations that are of interest to our citizens and to students.
  • Besides the permanent exhibitions, we annually offer two major temporary exhibitions and a number of smaller exhibitions. The last are often made with schools or other organizations within Amsterdam. Some of these exhibitions are on display in the old lockers of the orphanage at the boy's courtyard, or on billboards or platforms at the girl's courtyard. The public can visit these exhibitions for free. Sometimes, we organize exhibitions outside the museum in the neighborhoods.
  • Education is a major focus point of the museum. It is an important social mission, to get young residents of Amsterdam acquainted with the history of their city. Besides programs for schools, we also have programs for adults, for instance for groups and for immigrants.
  • To reach special target groups, we organize all kinds of events, such as lectures, theme nights and tours in the museum and in the city. We not only use museum teachers and senior residents to lead the tours, but we also offer multimedia tours for personal use. Most of these tours are downloadable for the Iphone and will soon be downloadable for other smart phones. Besides organizing our own events, we take part in major events of the city of Amsterdam, like the museum night, gay pride, and the market to open the cultural season in Amsterdam (de Uitmarkt).
  • In addition to our activities in the museum and in the city, we have several websites. We have a corporate site, a community site and sites on special themes. We are also active on social media sites like Twitter and Facebook. Last year we counted more than 600,000 visits on our websites. If we include social media, we counted more than 1,500,000 visits.
  • Now that I have given you an overall view of our museum, I want to tell you more about Amsterdam DNA. Here, tourists and first visitors, can get a short overview of the history of Amsterdam. We use multimedia and interactive techniques to get the story across in about 45 minutes. We want people to have a rounded experience in a relative short time. If they have visited Amsterdam DNA, visitors should feel free to leave the museum. Of course, they are more than welcome to visit other parts of the museum, but it is not necessary. With this approach, we take into account that tourists want to visit a lot of museums and point of interest in Amsterdam, so their time will be limited. We were also inspired by the success of the Rijksmuseum. This museum is renovating too and shows only the highlights of the collection, but the visitors still come and seem to be highly satisfied.
  • If you want to tell the story of Amsterdam, which is a rich tale, you have to choose. Before we did this, we had some strategic sessions, with experts of our museum and external specialists on Amsterdam. Kees Zandvliet (Historian and staff member of the Amsterdam Museum) used these sessions as input, to choose periods from the history of Amsterdam, which could help visitors to understand Amsterdam at present. He advised to tell about periods of glory, interspersed with periods of change (often less glorious), this to avoid telling a glamour story.
  • In the strategic sessions, we talked about the characteristics, making Amsterdam special. Together we named four special values, typical for Amsterdam: Spirit of enterprise, Freedom of thought, Civic virtue, Creativity. We use this themes throughout the whole exhibition, to enrich the story.
  • To make tourists feel welcome, we decided to translate the main parts of the exhibition in 10 languages.
  • To do so, we offered visitors a booklet in one of the ten languages.
  • On the back of the booklet is a Q&R code with information about the language.
  • When placing the Q&R code on the reader, a video with the main information on a period is started in the language of the booklet.
  • Besides the language key, the Q&R code contains a personal number. With this number, visitors can take part in an interactive game. An artist used our collection to make animations, which make a connection between the four DNA values and collection objects. In the exhibition are a number of screens were people can choose which animation they like best. We collect the choices a person makes while playing the game.
  • On the basis of their choices we give visitors advise on tours in the old city center they might enjoy.
  • We offer four free tours via an iphone- and android app. People, who don’t have an iphone can rent one in the museum for 5 euros.
  • For people who don’t like a smartphone tour, there are four short tours in the booklet.
  • Another way to use the personal Q&R code is to take a photo in the exhibition. Visitors can download their picture on Flickr.
  • We refer people to our website to retrieve their photo. Once on the website, we hope to stimulate them to look at the information on our site. At present, there's information on the seven periods and four values.
  • In Amsterdam DNA, we present information in various ways, in order to engage as much people as possible. In addition to the traditional ways, we use new technology to make the story more accessible.
  • .For each period, there is a video with the central story. In these videos, we use a special technique to give an impression of 3D. I want to show our teaser to give you an impression.
  • We use info graphics to give factual information.
  • For people who want to be more physical involved, we provide, for instance, these bikes. By riding the bike, they get the experience of traveling trough Amsterdam. If they use the bell, they see Amsterdam in an earlier period. Please take a look at the boy the front. He’s looking at some pictures in the gallery outside the exhibition.
  • By offering unexpected viewpoints, we hope to trigger visitors to look with a different attention level at the pictures. The holes in the walls of the exhibition show works of arts from the period, on display in the free gallery.
  • Another way of exiting people is the pepper ghost we show in the golden age period. A pepper ghost has something magic. The fairytale experience is in contrast with the content we show, a slavery plantation. On the other wall, visitors can smell spices the Dutch traded in the golden age.
  • For peopl e who want more in-depth information we offer background videos.
  • Of course, we also show the real thing. We show a range of authentic objects, varying from a Rembrandt to real drugs.
  • After showing you this information, it is time to talk about things we can do better. We are thinking of ways to make the start of the tour more inspiring and to make it clearer for the visitors what is expected of them. A lot of people have difficulties with the interactive screens. We might change them over time. The photo shoot does not give exiting photos, and we learned that people think it more fun take pictures together. The exhibition was designed for open sound, but this did not work in practice. We are looking for ways to bring sound in the exhibition. Because of the use of headphones, only four people can watch the videos together. This is a problem for groups. Although the exhibition was not designed for groups, there’s a lot of demand for group visits. We are thinking about ways we can facilitate this demand. The exhibition was designed before the economic depression. With the budget cuts we are facing; we can no longer afford it, to give a booklet to all the visitors. On top of that, it's our experience that most people don’t read the booklet, and a lot of people don’t want to take the booklet with them. We are planning to give people a flyer with their Q&R code. We will present the information in the booklet in a book that can be bought in our store. We also think about providing more information on the website about points of interests and surprising facts on the website. Finally, we intend to translate the smartphone tours to more traditional paper tours, which people can buy in our store. We expect that a lot of people will prefer this alternative. On the one hand, because tourists hesitate to use their smartphone because of the expensive data and power shortage. On the other hand, people like to buy a small souvenir. We expect; we can produce a map for one or two euro.
  • After this summary of possible improvements, you might think Amsterdam DNA is not successful. To contradict this, I want to conclude my presentation with this pages from our guest book. The majority of the comments are positive. We also experience a slight increase in the number of visitors. This is a promising sign because the museum is still under construction and the number of visitors to cultural institutions is dropping in Amsterdam, due to the economic recession.
  • Amsterdam DNA, a major step in the renewal of the Amsterdam Museum

    1. 1. Amsterdam DNA,a major step in the renewal of the Amsterdam Museum Marijke Oosterbroek
    2. 2. Introduction
    3. 3. Amsterdam MuseumAmsterdam Historical Museum
    4. 4. Mission"The Amsterdam Museum brings the history of the city to life,for a widest possible and maximum diverse audience.The Amsterdam Museum challenges residents and visitors,to deepen their relationship with the city."
    5. 5. Primary target groups • tourists from the Netherlands and abroad, • all residents of the Amsterdam region, and people who feel region connected to Amsterdam, • all people undergoing education related to Amsterdam.
    6. 6. Collection nl e um. am mus msterd ctie.acolle
    7. 7. Permanentexhibitions
    8. 8. Temporaryexhibitions
    9. 9. Education
    10. 10. Events
    11. 11. World Wide Web
    12. 12. Target groups: tourists and first visitors
    13. 13. Story of Amsterdam in 7 Periods• 1000 -1500: city on piles• 1550 -1600: revolt against king and church• 1600 -1700: centre of the world• 1795 -1815: liberty, equality, fraternity• 1870 -1914: towards a modern city• 1940 -1945: second world war• 1945 - : capital of freedom
    14. 14. 4 Values– Spirit of enterprise– Freedom of thought– Civic virtue– Creativity
    15. 15. 10 languages
    16. 16. Booklet
    17. 17. Q&R code
    18. 18. Q&R code reader
    19. 19. Interaction
    20. 20. Personal advise
    21. 21. City walks in app
    22. 22. City walks in booklet
    23. 23. Pictures on Flickr
    24. 24. Information on internet
    25. 25. Presentation methods
    26. 26. Video
    27. 27. Info graphics
    28. 28. Action
    29. 29. Special viewpoints
    30. 30. Pepper ghost, smelling
    31. 31. Background videos
    32. 32. The real thing
    33. 33. Improvements• Improved entrance• Interactive screens• Photo shoot• Sound (soundscapes)• Facilities for groups• Alternative for booklet (audiotour)• More information the web• Alternative for the smarphone app
    34. 34. But…