1 Antiquarianism and private collections before the rise of the museums: transnational networks, mediation and erudition of Danish antiquarians, 1600-1750

Project partners: PhD Fellow, cand.mag. Valdemar Hedelykke Grambye and Associate Professor, PhD Lars Bisgaard, University of Southern Denmark
Project period: 1 September 2016 - 1 September 2019

With their private collections, antiquarians such as Ole worm (1566-1654) and many other less known collectors paved the way for the foundation of modern museums and for our initial understanding of how to systematize collections and objects. This project investigates the networks, modes of mediation and erudition of key Danish antiquarians in order to uncover and understand their ambitions and goals behind their private collections, their modes of professional communication relative to modern museum communication and the lasting influence of antiquarianism. By applying a transnational perspective on Danish private collections and antiquarians 1600-1750, the project situates the history of antiquarianism in Denmark within a broader European context, thereby also contributing to a growing interest within international museology in the key importance of transnational elements for the development of modern museums and collections. The empirical parts of the study are based on letters, journals, inventories, publications, auction catalogues etc. with a distinct focus on the collection of ‘cultural’ or ‘national’ objects. Results are discussed and related to the key concepts of enlightenment and entertainment framing Our Museum, thus providing a necessary historical trajectory of how these terms play out in practice in the 17th and 18th centuries.

2 Between centre and periphery: museum development 1850-1950

Project partnersPhD Fellow, cand.mag. Kasper Haunstrup Madsen and Associate Professor, PhD Lars Bisgaard, University of Southern Denmark
Project period: 1 August 2016 – 1 August 2019
In the first half of the 19th century, Copenhagen museum institutions were predominant in communicating and organizing cultural heritage in Denmark. During the second half of the century, this monopoly was challenged by the establishment of a range of provincial museums. Even though they were considered miniature editions of their Copenhagen counterparts, the new museums did not always respect their place in the assumed hierarchy. A conflict arose between centre and periphery concerning who had the right to organize and display the common, cultural heritage, how it should be communicated, and, more importantly, what was to be considered the ‘common’ cultural heritage. A primary focus on the higher estates’ culture was challenged by provincial museums that centered on folk culture, especially from their local rural regions. This research project investigates how well the new provincial museums were anchored in their local communities, in the popular movements of the 19th century, and what these networks meant for their societal communication and interaction as it was defined in relation to the larger museums. The empirical parts of the study mainly consist of working papers from the selected museums, newspaper reviews of exhibitions, and private archives from leading museum individuals.

3 100 years of Living History at Danish Museums

Project partnersPhD Fellow, cand.mag Tilde Strandbygaard Gabriel Jessen and Professor, PhD Anette Elisabeth Warring, Roskilde University
Project period: 1 August 2016 - 31 July 2019

The use of living history or re-enactment is increasingly integrated as part of the ways in which historical museums interact with visitors and society at large. Today, employees, volunteers and visitors engage in re-enactments of historical events, activities and social roles located within a broad range of material settings. This research project investigates the phenomenon of living history as it has developed in Denmark by asking where, when, how, why and for whom museums have participated in re-enacting the past. Particular attention is given to the issue of how museums have handled dilemmas concerning the relationship between their educational purposes on the one hand and the provision of engaging experiences for visitors on the other – an issue that has been discussed in Denmark since 1897, when Sophus Müller, the director of the National Museum of Denmark, first raised the issue prompted by the establishment of a new kind of ‘folk’ museum. Empirical parts of the study are primarily based on evidence located in museum archives and analysed with theoretical inspiration drawn from cultural history, ethnography, archaeology and performance studies. By establishing a long-term perspective on the ways in which living history and its attendant dilemmas have played out at a range of large and small Danish museums, the project provides a robust basis for a more granular understanding of contemporary re-enactment practices and, in wider terms, museum interaction with the general public. 

4 Generalist or specialist? A study of the development of the museum profession from 1958 until today, focusing especially on the expected skills of the museum professionals

Project partnersPhD Fellow, cand.mag. Susanne Krogh Jensen and Professor, PhD Hans Dam Christensen, University of Copenhagen 
Project period: 1 September 2016 - 1 August 2019
Since the passing in 1958 of the first law concerning local historical museums, Danish museums have experienced a professionalization across a number of domains. Changing perceptions of the institutional role played by museums in welfare societies have informed changes in the expectations made to museum staff and to their actual work conditions. Key to these changes are ongoing debates about ways in which museum institutions handle dimensions of visitor enlightenment and experience. This project analyzes how Danish museum professions have developed since 1958, In empirical terms, the study is based on legislature and related documents of governance, on educational options for museum workers, and on strategic and practical implementation of these ramification at selected museums. A grounded documentation and discussion of the trajectory of museum professionalization in recent history provides a novel basis for understanding the current status of Danish museums as cultural institutions and a firm ground for acting on dilemmas inherent in their societal positioning.

5 Digital museum mediation in Denmark: a critical evaluation of its implementation, affordances, and impact

Project partnersPhD Fellow, cand.mag. Eva Pina Myrczik and Professor, PhD Hans Dam Christensen, University of Copenhagen
Project period:  1 August 2016 - 31 July 2019
Digital museum mediation has developed quickly over the last three decades propelled by the development of digital technologies, culture policy requirements, public and private project funds, and public-private partnerships. Many projects and practices of digital museum mediation are based on the belief that digital technology can advance cultural mediation with enticing, user-led experiences as well as in-depth knowledge. Yet, there is neither a systematic overview nor evaluations of the many digital activities and their impact. This project aims to address this situation. We study the ways in which digital mediation has entrenched itself into Danish museums by asking: in what ways does digital museum mediation promote the sharing of knowledge, user experience, and participation? The empirical part of the study is a survey of all grantees of public and private digital project funds. Survey results are analysed and contextualised in relation to existing studies, a mapping of specific digital project reports, and in-depth qualitative interviews with key stakeholders.

6 Design and evaluation of experiences as a means of learning in a museum context

Project partners: AAU: PhD Fellow, Kristina Madsen; Professor, PhD Jens F. Jensen, Aalborg University; and
Project period: 15 June 2016 - 14 June 14 2019
The museum Limfjordsmuseet is currently developing a new permanent exhibition, Course and Compas, focusing on the history of the Limfjorden as a seafaring environment. The exhibition will apply interactive multimedia as a means to foster learning options through fascination and wonder rather than factual information. The case represents a unique opportunity to co-design the exhibition and subsequently evaluate its user experiences and their impact. The key research question is this: how is it possible to design digital interactive media that operate as levers of engaging experiences optimizing communication and learning about localized, maritime cultural heritage, and to what extent does such leaning occur? In methodological terms, the project applies research through design, action research and experience design, while the evaluation part will apply ethnography-based approaches such as participatory observation and qualitative user studies. This project is a particular assest in documenting Our Museum’s analytical dimensions of representation and usage, while its results is of key relevance to the many museums that use digital technologies and media as means to experienced-based learning.

7 Immersive digital experiences at unmanned exhibition sites

Project partnersPhD Fellow, Rameshnath Kala Krishnasamy; Professor, PhD Jens F. Jensen, Aalborg University; and Aalborg Historiske Museum
Project period: 1 June 2016 - 31 May 2019
Centralization and rationalization of museum operations in Denmark imply a decommissioning of smaller exhibition sites. An alternative to shutting down sites is to establish automated, unmanned sites where digital media can facilitate user-led museum experiences. This research project takes as its point of departure the design challenges that surface when museums develop unmanned operation of exhibition sites at historical landmarks, so the mediated museum experience is delivered in situ but via a technological platform. The Historical Museum of Northern Jutland hosts exhibition sites that act as testbeds for the project design, development and prototyping and as vehicles for data collection and extensive user studies. The project applies an exploratory design approach where user studies operate as a baseline from which preliminary concepts are designed, developed, analysed and evaluated in an iterative development process. In methodical terms, the design dimension applies action research, research through design and constructive design research, while user studies are conducted using a mixed method approach. Developing and applying general design principles and design guidelines, the project and its results offer guidelines for best practice that can be adopted when designing digital solutions for similar autonomous exhibition sites.

8 Art, dialogue and experiment: user participation as a social catalyst for museum communication

Project partnersPhD Fellow, cand.mag. Christiane Witzel Særkjær; Associate Professor, Ane Hejlskov Larsen, Aarhus University; and Randers Kunstmuseum
Project period: 1 August 016 – 31 July 2019
The aim of the project is to help advance local user participation at art galleries. This aim is realized through a study that develops and analyzes participatory and dialogical processes with local visitors at Randers Art Museum. The key research questions are: How does the museum space and interactions among visitors impact on their art experiences, and how can visitor participation be facilitated so as to be meaningful for the individual, the museum and society? The project is based on the assumption that visitor participation at art galleries facilitates social relations and interactions, both of which deepen visitors’ aesthetic experiences and insights while also enhancing their societal involvement.
In methodological terms, the project applies qualitative approaches. Individual and focus-group interviews and participant observation are combined with exploration of various principles for user participation, for example through user-led workshops where users meet artworks from the museum collection within and beyond the museum.
Project results will provide new, evidence-based approaches to local user participation and engagement of relevance for the museum sector at large as well as other cultural institutions that aim at advancing public  citizenship and individual well-being.

9 Old art and contemporary users: new ways of communicating the Skovgaard family's art and age

Project partnersPhD Fellow, cand.mag. Mia Yates; Associate Professor, PhD Ane Hejlskov Larsen, Aarhus University; and Skovgaard Museet
Project period: 1 August 2016 – 1 August 2019

The older objects are in a museum, the more challenging it can be to understand them. The overall aim of this project is to strengthen the experience and understanding of historical art for a variety of user groups. The aim is achieved by answering the following key questions: what contextual elements facilitate contemporary users’ understanding of the museum's collection? And how can new communication strategies open the museum to new user groups?
The project takes its starting point in an evaluation of the Skovgaard Museum's existing communication experiments and in a qualitative anthropological study of the museum’s users and non-users which seeks to understand individual experiences of the existing exhibition communication. Based on these results, the project develops prototype communication designs that are tested at one-off events at the museum.
The project is premised on the assumption that the Skovgaard Museum's collection based on a family of artists constitutes an anchor point for user identification that can bridge the time gap between then and now. So, the Skovgaard family’s personal stories are used in the communication experiments which draw on narrative theory. Narratives are able to create meaningful connections between fantasy and reality, and this connection makes narratives effective tools in activating history in relation to people’s personal lives. Sensory theory is also drawn upon in order to clarify how, and with which purpose, different senses can be activated and potentially support varied encounters with the collection.
This project contributes with new ideas on how art history museums can enhance more diversified social and cultural access to their collections by using narratives and sensory elements. In this way, the project strengthens the inclusion of different citizen groups and helps further a democratization of art museums in Denmark.

10 Astrophysics: designing exhibitions for inclusion

Project partnersPhD Fellow, cand.scient. Line Skøtt Nicolaisen; Associate Professor, PhD Marianne Achiam, University of Copenhagen; and Tycho Brahe Planetarium
Project period: 1 August 2016 – 31 July 2019
The ultimate goal for science centres and museums is to make knowledge understandable for the public. However, international studies show that the substance of science centres and natural history museums is not equally understandable for everyone and the gender plays a key role for visitors’ knowledge formation there. The aim of this project is to help advance a more diversified science communication in general and astrophysics in particular. The aim is fulfilled through a study of the public communication at planetariums and the possible mechanisms of inclusion and exclusion at play there.
The project is informed by the Anthropological Theory of Didactics to investigate the institutional, pedagogical, and didactical conditions that influence the design of exhibitions and other science communication activities. How does the transition of scientific knowledge into public knowledge transform professional perceptions of an implied visitor? Does the transformation reproduce or modify stereotypical ideas of what constitutes a visitor interested in astronomy?  Which elements are important for diversified practices of science communication?
In empirical terms, the project participants co-design a new exhibition together with the Tycho Brahe Planetarium located in Copenhagen. In methodological terms, the co-design process is informed by a series of interviews with potential users, selected on the basis of gender, and using a research based design approach that oscillates between phases of analysis and re-design.
Project results will help advance more diversified and inclusive modes of exhibition communication and will help strengthen the knowledge base necessary for designing for equality. These insights are of key relevance for future communication at science centres and natural history museums, just as the issue of designing for diversified communication is of wider importance for the museum sector.

11 Participatory and professional interchange in digital museum practice

Project partnersPostdoc, PhD Rikke Haller Baggesen; Associate Professor, PhD Michael Haldrup, Roskilde University; and RAGNAROCK museum
Project period: 1 August 2016 - 31 July 2019
Digital technologies not only contribute to changes in museums’ physical and virtual modes of communication, they also inspire new types of exchange between museums and their public, for example when users are invited to participate as co-collectors. In this process, practices of collection and mediation become merged, while conventional museum practices and professional divides are renegotiated. The project focuses on this development by examining the interplay between collection and communication, experience and education, and user participation and professional practice in a digital museum context. Furthermore, the project considers how digital collection practices affect professional museum roles and also reflect on the options and obstacles in practice-based museum research. In empirical terms, the project analyzes, co-designs and evaluates the digital co-collection platform Rock traces (Rockspor) located at the Ragnarock Museum. We apply a mixed-method approach encompassing participant observations, interviews and interventions with adult online users. The iterative co-development process focuses on a joint formation of user experiences and relevant content.

12 The museum as a site for mediating experiences

Project partnersPhD Fellow, cand.mag. Signe Lykke Littrup; Associate Professor, PhD Michael Haldrup, Roskilde University; and The Danish Castle Centre
Project period: 1 August 2016 – 31 July 2019
This project aims to help advance theoretical and practical knowledge on digitally mediated museum visitors’ experiences. This aim is achieved through theoretical and empirical investigation of the ways in which visitor experiences are staged and emerge through interactions across visitor practices, analogue and digitally mediated exhibition elements and the museum site. In theoretical terms, the project draws on performances studies, theories of atmosphere and post-phenomenology. The Danish Castle Centre forms the locus of the empirical study which uncovers the qualities characterizing analogue and digitally mediated visitor experiences as these are formed through interaction between particular exhibition elements. We are particularly concerned to uncover whether these experiences can be seen to foster fragmentation or synergies in the museum visitors´ learning processes, in the social context of their visit and in the co-creation of experiences between the specific analogue museum site, experience-enhancing technologies and the exhibited artefacts.
Project results are related to Our Museum’s overall analysis of museum dilemmas in balancing dimensions of enlightenment and entertainment and specific project results are of relevance to professional capacity-building when designing for technology-enhanced museum experiences.

13 Rethinking existing participatory practices: options and obstacles for museum ICT development

Project partners: Associate Professor, PhD Sigurd Gronemann; Professor, dr.phil. Kirsten Drotner, University of Southern Denmark; and Natural History Museum of Denmark
Project period: 1 August 2016 - 1 July 2019
Today, digital media is far beyond being regarded as ‘new media’ in most museums – museums have long prioritised and integrated digital communication into their strategies, and now practise digital communication in a continuous flow across departments, projects and employees. However, despite these efforts, a gap exists between the hopes for participation, engagement and a destabilisation of institutional authority wrought by digital media and the actual engagement and communication practices created with and for museum audiences. Drawing on theoretical perspectives from media studies, human computer interaction (HCI) and museology and applying an action research approach, this project addresses the discrepancy by asking: how do museums approach digital developments across projects, employees, internal stakeholders and external partners? And how can best practise models for digital museum development be formed, applied and evaluated in order to generate more general recommendations for museums’ digital development? In empirical terms, the focus is on the Natural History Museum of Denmark’s approach to digital development with regard to a variety of emerging digital initiatives for user engagement and learning. In methodological terms, the project adopts an iterative and mixed-method approach involving ethnographic methods together with more action-based research interventions and participatory design methods.

Associated projects: 

Securing significant cultural heritage values in local communities: between conservation and communication

Project partner: Assistant Professor Line Vestergaard Knudsen, Aalborg University
Project period:
Museums have for centuries interacted with their surroundings and strived to make a difference in their local, national or global community. But what happens when cultural history museums move outside the walls in order to influence physical public planning in their local areas? And what happens when museum curators communicate and discuss the local heritage with citizens in an attempt to engage them to reckon, use and preserve both tangible and intangible cultural heritage values?
This subproject aims to answer these questions through follow-up research with a special focus on three Danish museums: Brønderslev Museerne, Vesthimmerlands Museum and Muserum, Skive. The results of the project are relevant in a Danish situation where museums are currently obliged by law to collaborate with municipalities (in the so-called § 8-work) and thus contribute to the designation of significant cultural heritage values in cities and rural areas. When museum professionals are mobilized for this purpose they work to uncover heritage values, but in addition they might see their role as to also explore whether there will be local support and practices that can help to make the preservation of certain buildings and environments vibrant, relevant and sustainable in local communities. Museums can even take the role as promoters of local recognition of cultural heritage values.

Exploring production criteria for a transmedia exhibition

Project partner: PhD Fellow Vash Selvadurai, Aalborg University
Project period:

Certain aspects of trans-media and cross-media is today experimentally tested in relation to museums and exhibitions in order to enhance the visitor experience. However there are only a few examples that really exploit the potential of transmedia aspects. The primary objective of this project is to generate theory, methods and techniques for creating and implementing an involving and educative transmedia exhibition, which bridges the pre- and post-experience with the actual visit. In correlation with the state-of-the-art of transmedia experience, the value sought is to synthesize new knowledge about creating an involving and educative transmedia exhibition and to create knowledge about the organisational implementation to manage a transmedia exhibition. The project is a collaboration between North Sea Oceanarium and Aalborg University and is funded by the Innovation Fund.

3D scanning, modeling and printing in the museum. The use of 3D technology in current museum communication

Project partner: Associate Professor Lise Skytte Jakobsen, Aarhus University
Project period: 1 August 2016 - 1 January 2019
3D scanning, 3D printing and 3D modeling are becoming available digital technologies, also for museums. Economic and technical, these methods are now within reach, and several museums, in Denmark and internationally, experiment with the use of 3D technology to enhance the quality of cultural representation online as well as to create distinctive experiences in the physical exhibitions. With 3D printing museums can re-materialize objects and invite users to touch, use and re-model archaeological findings, works of art and natural heritage. The technology offers new and interesting perspectives on the concept of 'digital re-enactment’, and it opens new opportunities to develop mental health through object handling. However, the development also calls for a critical analysis and discussion of the communicative benefits and challenges of using 3D technology as a form of representation in the museum context. The goal of the study is to establish exchange of experiences between cultural and natural history museums and art museums on the use of 3D technology. This is done by identifying the main existing Danish and international initiatives and through follow-up research on ongoing development projects in order to point towards best practice in the field.

Join or die! Design Museum Danmark between communication, practice and co-creation

Project partner: Associate Professor Line H. Christensen, University of Copenhagen
Project period:

The new museum experience: dimensions of public engagement at Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 1958-1998

Project partner: Associate Professor Malene Vest Hansen, University of Copenhagen
Project period:

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