April 13-17, 2010
Denver, Colorado, USA


Majken Kramer Overgaard, Denmark and Patrik Svensson, Sweden


The past years the Internet has undergone a transformation from being static and closed and very much about creating systems that connected computers, to being more dynamic and open-ended, and more about creating systems that connect human beings. This shift towards a more social, collective user generated Internet has been named Web 2.0. The current development on the Internet is also affecting the museums and their presence on-line. In cooperation with three art institutions we have developed a product called KuratorTool which is based on this new technology, where the user is acknowledged as a producer and distributor of knowledge. This paper will investigate how the museum as an institution and the traditional museum user will both change in a virtual world that is dominated by social technologies where the user is the creative part.

Keywords: Virtual 3D, on-line, collaboration, curation, social, exhibition

KuratorTool – Present      

KuratorTool is an on-line user-based project where you can investigate the question, "What is an exhibition?". The project ranges from the development of an initial idea about an exhibition to its opening. Focus is on the exhibition because it is the primary form of communication for the institutions, and it is through its exhibitions that an institution is defined to its visitors. Since the project relies heavily on user participation, it is important to work with representations that are familiar to the user. 

The reason for bringing the exhibition spaces and exhibitions into a virtual realm is to illustrate the wide range of methods and considerations that goes into the creation of an exhibition, letting the users become aware of the thought and processes that lie behind an exhibition, and enabling them to take part in a dialogue with an exhibition. The project expresses both a wish to make users aware of and recognize the exhibition as a cultural and saturated product, and also a wish for a critical view of the exhibition medium through the participation and input of the user. Furthermore, it is also an attempt to merge some of the core competences of museums – communication and curation – with social, group oriented knowledge sharing – something that can be considered a relatively new area for museums in Denmark.

KuratorTool is built up around 3D models of the exhibition spaces from the three participating institutions (see below). Parts of the collections from the institutions have been made available in the tool and can be used in the exhibitions. Users can move around the spaces freely and interact with the available exhibitions through their avatar. A guided tour of the exhibition created by the curator can contain introductions to the theme of the exhibition, or a description of the creation of the exhibition and analysis of specific works of art, and is available to anyone who visits that particular exhibition. 

Users can also create exhibitions, either by “remixing” existing exhibitions created by other users creating new narratives, or they can start from scratch in one of the exhibition spaces using any number of works available from the institutions. User-friendly tools for selecting and placing art are complemented by basic tools for arranging the space. A guided-tour tool can be used to create a predetermined route through the exhibition, complete with commentary at user-selected points, giving the curator a way of conveying any underlying or otherwise interesting information in the process. 

Three distinctly different institutions were part of the project: Nikolaj Copenhagen Contemporary Art Center , Heart – Herning museum of Contemporary Art, and The Hirschsprung Collection. The three institutions were selected based on their different exhibition profiles, Nikolaj being a modern art gallery, Heart a contemporary art museum, and Hirschsprung specializing in the Danish Golden Age; each has its own approach to curation and exhibitions. 

KuratorTool – Future

The current prototype, available on-line at, was created as a proof of concept, demonstrating the feasible of the tool. It was user-tested in 2009 with students and teachers at Christianshavns high school in Copenhagen and showed clearly that it was possible to create a tool that users could pick up and start using within minutes, something necessary if it were to work in the context of a short educational process (total time of 2-5 hours). It also raised a number of interesting issues that we believe are key to taking KuratorTool from prototype to becoming an actual curation and learning tool.

One of the main issues lies in the limitation of the available works of art in the prototype. This clearly became a problem with the test groups and a barrier for users who were tasked with creating an exhibition on a specific theme. To solve this, instead of just expanding the existing database we propose to detach it entirely from the project and connect KuratorTool to already existing on-line collections, and also use existing search API's for finding and using artwork that is available on-line. To further expand the range of available artwork, we also want to explore the possibility of including 3D artwork (e.g sculpture, etc.) and video art.

Opening up for a wider Internet search of artwork, and possibly also a user upload, raises questions about copyright, something we think KuratorTool could be a great platform for exploring. More and more collections are becoming available digitally and on-line, and using those collections for educational purposes has many advantages. But at the same time, it creates the need for a solution to questions of copyright. At the end of the development of this prototype, we opened up a dialogue with Creative Commons in an effort to shed more light on this issue, and we hope that future work on KuratorTool will extend further into this field.

Another aspect of KuratorTool that wasn't explored fully in the prototype is the social part. Future development will focus more on this, using a more extensive user profile system with social tools like ratings and comments, and possibly also bridges to other social platforms such as facebook. 

Finally, the project has also spawned a number of ideas that stray from the project but bring a new and interesting approach to the task of exploring the question, 'What is an exhibition?' One such example is the idea of diffusing the border between the actual physical exhibition spaces and their virtual counterparts by letting users take their virtual exhibition with them on a handheld device and experience it as an augmented reality layer in the real space.


The project was funded by the Heritage Agency of Denmark, and was created in collaboration with three institutions – Nikolaj Copenhagen Contemporary Art Center (, Heart – Herning museum of Contemporary Art ( and The Hirschsprung Collection ( We also wish to acknowledge teacher Anne Houe and the students at Christianshavns gymnasium who tested the prototype.

Cite as:

Overgaard, M.K., and P. Svensson, KuratorTool. In J. Trant and D. Bearman (eds). Museums and the Web 2010: Proceedings. Toronto: Archives & Museum Informatics. Published March 31, 2010. Consulted