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Museums and the Web

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The Use of Social Media in the Danish Museum Landscape

Nanna Holdgaard, IT University of Copenhagen, Denmark


This paper examines Danish museums' use of social media on their own websites and on external sites like Facebook. The paper takes its point of departure in a study of the Danish online museum presence through an analysis of the museums' websites and presence at social media sites. The results of exploring 123 Danish museum websites and social media presences show that half of the Danish museums use social media - art museums being the most active among the Danish museums. Despite the fact that half of the Danish museums are on Facebook and write blogs, the majority of museums on a general level communicate with a low degree of user interaction, participation and engagement. The paper concludes that Danish museums in general use social media in order to attract more visitors to the physical museums.

Keywords: museum, online presence, social media, Facebook, Denmark


One of the early discussions about the online museum took point of departure in the dichotomy of the authentic and the fake, the real museum objects vs. the digital objects; the notion of the online museum has been defined by numerous of museum researchers and practioners (Hutamo, 2002; Battro, 1999; Schweibenz, 1998). The online museum as a concept has been discussed under numerous of terms: the electronic museum, the virtual museum, the digital museum, Web museum, the museum hyper museum, etc. Today, many of the discussions about the museums' online presence take point of departure from how the museums' users can be encouraged to participate and contribute, share and interact with the museums online in a variety of social media platforms; i.e. at the Museums and the Web conferences. The goal is to attract new target groups, democratize and transform the museums into being responsive (Lang, Reeve, & Woollard, 2006), engaging (Black, 2005), and participatory (Simon, 2010).

In an international museum context, within both practice and research fields the use of social media in museum settings has been examined in different perspectives and approaches: the introduction of social media in curatorial work (Dicker, 2010; Kelly, 2010), the use of social media to engage users (Caruth & Bernstein, 2007), and social media as a means to attract new target groups (Russo et al, 2006). In a Danish museum context, however, the experiences with and knowledge of social media used by museums are still very limited, and so far, very little research has been done within this area.

Social media are often used interchangeably with Web 2.0 which entails the ability for people to meet, collaborate and share information online, and refers to the transition from static to dynamic websites (O'Reilly, 2005). Web 2.0 is often defined in terms of the technological dimension, whereas social media refers to the social dimension of websites and applications (Bruhns & Brahnisch, 2009, 5).

Through the last decades, a large number of different initiatives have been launched to explore, innovate and develop the presence of museums online both in an international context and in a Danish setting.

The aim of this paper is to explore how Danish museums use social media in their online communications in order examine to what degree the museums in Denmark have adapted social media. The paper will examine how and if the variation of different museum types (cultural heritage museums, art museums and natural history museum) prompts different online museum presences and online practices. In order to introduce the museum user perspective on the online museum presence, the paper will draw on the results of a national survey of Danish museums' online users from 2010 by the Heritage Agency of Denmark. The Heritage Agency of Denmark is a body under the Danish Ministry of Culture and has the regulatory responsibility for sites and monuments, listed buildings and state-subsidized museums. The Heritage Agency of Denmark has examined the online museum users' understanding, experience, and expectations of the Danish museums' websites (Kulturarvsstyrelsen, 2010).

The present study is part of a PhD project at the IT University of Copenhagen, Denmark, on Danish online museum communication from a user perspective, with a particular focus on social media. The study presented here is a preliminary study of the Danish museums' online presence and is to be repeated again in 2011 and 2012.

The Danish museums

In this paper, Danish museums are delimited to the 124 state-owned and state-subsidized museums in Denmark (there are 8 state-owned museums and 116 state-subsidized museums). These museums are all administered according to the Danish Consolidated Act of Museums. Danish museums are divided into three official categories of museums: 1) Cultural heritage museums 2) Art museums 3) Natural history museums; a fourth category is the special museum (Figure 1). A special museum is a museum which is a combination of two or three of the above categories. Delimiting museums in this paper to state-owned and state-subsidized museums excludes science centres, private collections, castles, zoos and aquariums.

Fig 1: Distribution of types of Danish museums (n=123)Fig 1: Distribution of types of Danish museums (n=123)

Research method

This paper draws on data from an exploratory study of Danish museums' online communication. The study consisted of an examination of the Danish museum websites (n=123) conducted in May-June 2010 by the author.

The main purpose of this study is to describe the characteristics of Danish online museum communication by mapping trends and patterns, hence to make inferences about the characteristics of how the Danish museums communicate online and how the museums use the features of social media and develop over time. The study was conducted with inspiration from content analysis techniques (Krippendorff, 2004). Content analysis is considered a basic systematic and reliable technique to infer generalizations of representations and meanings of media content. However, this study in itself does not represent a content analysis. First of all, the study does not quantify each variable/category as e.g. in a word-frequency count (Stemler, 2001).

A significant feature of a website is that it combines writings, sound, still and moving images. This is often referred to as convergence (Fagerjord, 2003, 294) or as multimodal media (Jensen, 1998). The data used in this paper has been collected by traversing the 123 Danish museum websites using a set of categories. The categories are selected in order to examine how the Danish museums make use of these different media formats on their websites. The data is collected on the basis of a presence/absence structure to determine whether or not the museums use the above mentioned categories on their websites.

The museums have been examined by looking at the following categories:

  • Language (usage of Danish language or other languages)
  • Online exhibitions (curated content)
  • Videos (moving images)
  • Games (interactive features)

In addition, the paper draws on a study of the Danish museums' use of social media. The paper applies a broad definition of social media: "websites which build on Web 2.0 technologies to provide space for in-depth social interaction, community formation, and then the tackling of collaborative projects" (Bruns & Bahnisch, 2009, 7). The definition covers websites and services such as Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, Wikipedia etc. and emphasizes interaction, community and collaboration as central constituents of social media.

The study of social media use in Danish museums includes both external social media sites such as Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, Twitter and Foursquare, as well as social media embedded on the museums' respective websites such as blogs. Facebook and YouTube are selected due to their popularity in Denmark. According to Google, Facebook and YouTube were the most searched words in Google Denmark 2010 (Google, 2010). Flickr is chosen as a category since it has been used by museums such as the Brooklyn Museums (e.g. Caruth & Bernstein, 2007) and because of The Flickr Commons project (Oates, 2008). In a Danish context, Twitter and Foursquare are still used by early adopters and has not yet reached the critical mass (Rogers, 37, 314); regardless, it has been important for this study to examine whether or not Danish museums have adopted these social media sites in their online communication since this can be indicative of the Danish museums' ability to pick up on emerging trends in online communication.

About half of the Danish museums that use social media have not stated on their main museum website that they can be found on, e.g., YouTube or Facebook. Thus, in order to collect data for the study, every museum was searched for in, e.g., Facebook with multiple searches as not all the museums use their official name, but use abbreviations instead.

As a part of the study, the author of the paper has become liker, group member and friend with all the Danish museums on Facebook in order to follow the communication. As a result, the author's Facebook profile is included in the numbers of likers, group members and friends of the Danish museums.

Analysis of the data

All the Danish museums in the study have a website, although the websites differ in size and style. Some museum websites are very small static HTML sites with less than 20 Web pages; e.g., the cultural heritage museum The Ecomuseum Samsø ( or the art museum The Storm P. Museum ( Other museums websites are large dynamic sites with thousands of Web pages; e.g., the cultural heritage museum The National Museum of Denmark ( or the art museum The National Gallery of Denmark ( All the Danish museum websites have static textual elements and still images on their sites and thus comply with the basic definition of a website. The general focus on the websites is directed towards presenting basic information needed to plan a visit. This entails information which introduces the museum, the opening hours, the collections, special exhibitions, activities etc. The communication style is one-way centered, from the museum to the users, and it seems as if the online users are primarily thought of as future museum visitors for the onsite museum. Few museums make full use of the potentials of the online media. One of the earlier expectations for the museums online was to be able to make the museum objects in the collections accessible online (Schweibenz, 1998). In Denmark it has been possible to search in the museum collections across the Danish museums since 2004 in the databases: "Museernes samlinger" (The Museums' Collections - and "KunstIndex Danmark" (Art Index Denmark - Notably, only a limited number of museums highlight this feature in their online communication or even link to the sites.

Danish museum websites are very diverse and heterogeneous, and their difference in prioritization of the online museum presence is significant. This has already been proved by two independent studies in which the Danish museums' perspectives on the importance of online museum communication have been examined (Warberg Løssing, 2008; Bysted-Sandberg & Kjeldsen, 2008). Some museums demonstrate professional skills and competencies when it comes to their Web communication, while others reveal lack of interest, resources or qualifications. One example is the museums' URLs. In most cases, the URL in one way or another matches the name of the museum. However, in some cases the URL differs from the actual museum name. The Danish Agricultural Museum's URL is where "gl" is an abbreviation of the Danish world "gammel" (old in English) and "Estrup" refers to a place name. A different museum, the manor house Gammel Estrup, has the URL: The two museums are next door neighbours on the same old estate Gammel Estrup but are two different and separate museum institutions, yet a comparison of the two URLs makes it appears as if they are one museum.

communication features
Danish museums
Language only Danish 34%
Online exhibition 31%
Video 39%
Games 13%
Blogs 11%
On Facebook 50%

Table 1: Danish museums' online content. Total number of museums

communication features
Cultural heritage
museum (n=67)
Art museum
Natural history
museum (n=3)*
Special museum
Language only Danish 51% 19% 33% 0%
Online exhibition 39% 35% 0% 75%
Video 45% 46% 67% 100%
Games 16% 31% 25% 0%
Blogs 9% 19% 33% 50%
On Facebook 51% 89% 33% 100%
* The percentages of this category should be interpreted cautiously because of the small number of museums.

Table 2: Online museum content. Differences in museum types.


All the 123 websites are in Danish, and 37% (45) of the museums have websites in Danish only. However, since Denmark is a small country with only 5.5 million citizens, many museums have translated their sites into other languages in order to make the museum known to a wider audience beyond the borders of Denmark. In Denmark, the museums also function as tourist attractions or tourist destinations, apart from being knowledge and research institutions: 33% (41) of the museums in total have translated their websites into English, 29% (35) of the museums have websites in three languages (Danish, English and German), and 2% (2) of the museums have websites in more than four languages (including languages such as Chinese, Polish, French, Dutch etc.). The museums with websites which have been translated into languages other than Danish have not mirrored the entire sites, but larger parts, especially of the sections with "About the museum" information. Examining the language of Danish museum websites from a geographical perspective, it is significant that the museums try to cater for prospect tourist/visitors by directing the information in the language of the tourists. Hence, the museums in the regions in Denmark with typically many German tourists have a German version of their website: 75% (25) of the museums with a website in German are geographically located in Southern Denmark or Central Jutland close to the German border.

Half (51%) of the cultural heritage museums have websites entirely in Danish, while this is the case for 19% of the art museums (Table 2). This might indicate that the cultural heritage museums either 1) are less interested in international users and visitors 2) or have fewer resources to translate Web communications from Danish into other languages. The museums with Danish websites are in general located outside the capital area and are characterized by being smaller museums with few employees and with roots in the local community; for instance, the cultural heritage museum Holbæk Museum ( or the art museum Fuglsang Art Museum (

With regard to social media, a predominant number of museums using social media communicate in Danish on the social media sites. However, occasionally the larger museums post a comment or an event in English.

Online exhibitions

The most common approach to, and conception of, the museum online or the virtual museum is to consider it a museum space that "does not house actual objects and therefore lacks the permanence and unique qualities of a museum in the institutional definition of the term" (Encyclopædia Britannica, 2011). Of Danish museums, 31% (38) have a specific online exhibition on their website (39% of the cultural heritage museums and 35% of the art museums) (Table 2). This means that 31% of the museums have created curatorial content which is available only on the museum website. The size and style of the online exhibition varies considerably.

Many of the museums have created online exhibitions targeting kids and young people. The Danish government encourages museums (and science centers) to develop digital teaching and educational resources; e.g. through the e-museum initiative, a pool for development of digital teaching resources by museums and sciences centres operated by the Danish Ministry of Education and the Danish Ministry of Culture. Many Danish online exhibitions for children and young people originate from this initiative; e.g. "Mit Vadehav" (My Wadden Sea) at Museet for Varde By og Omegn ( (Figure 2).

In general, Danish museums are dependent on external funding and resources in order to develop online exhibitions or larger digital projects (but also other smaller interactive features such as games). E.g., SMK Digital - the forefront of digital arts communication in Denmark - has been made possible by a large donation from the foundation Nordea-fonden.

Fig 2: Mit vadehavFig 2: Mit vadehav

Other museums have exhibited objects and artefacts from their collections which are not exhibited in the physical museum; e.g. the exhibitions at the Danish Immigrant Museum ( or "Lokkefuge" (Decoy Birds - at the Danish Museum of Hunting and Forestry. For some museums, the online exhibitions are a product or part of research or a project and are large and extensive subsites, while other museums show a handful of images and reproductions of objects and artefacts. About half of the museums with online exhibitions have listed previous exhibition (sub)sites/ or webpages as online/web exhibitions; e.g. The National Museum of Denmark (

According to the national survey of online museum users from the Heritage Agency from 2010, 42% of online museum users think of the Danish museum website as an online exhibition space (Kulturarvsstyrelsen 2010, 29). Thus these expectations could be incitement for Danish museums to start developing more online exhibition spaces since no more than a third of the Danish museums at the present time have online exhibitions.


Exploring how video, animations, and audio presentations are used is an important factor as well when studying Danish online museum communication. Of Danish museums, 39% (48) use animations and videos on their websites. These videos can be categorized into four topics:

  1. about the museum,
  2. events and activities from the museum,
  3. learning and education targeted children and young people,
  4. about an artist/historical period etc. linked to the museum collection or special exhibition.

Most museums have videos from the second category, events and activities.

The predominance of museums with videos on their sites is either cultural heritage museums or art museums (Table 2). The number of videos varies, as does the quality. Some museums have just one. For instance, Give-Egnen's Museum has published one video from an evening event in order to communicate the atmosphere and the activities of the event. It is the only video on their website. Give-Egnen's Museum is a relatively small cultural heritage museum in the Southern part of Denmark, and though the museum uses video in their online communications, the museum does not have any online exhibitions or use social media in their online communications.

The National Gallery of Denmark, on the other hand, has about 70 videos on its website presenting the museum, special exhibitions and artists in the museum collection, and has employees specifically assigned to produce Web-TV for the museum. Many of the Danish museums' videos are produced to target children and young people as part of an educational program or activity and the e-museum project. A small number of primarily art museums have, in addition to videos on their own website, created a YouTube channel where they upload videos of, for example, artists explaining their or others' works of art.

Although 39% of the museums use videos on their sites, only 13% of present online museum users seem to want or miss videos on the Danish museum websites (Kulturarvsstyrelsen, 2010, 30). This could be because many of the present online users do not know about the existence of the majority of online museum videos since the majority of museums have made them (purposely?) very hard to find on their sites.


Worldwide, numerous museums use games in order to engage especially a younger audience; i.e. CyberMuse - the education and research site of The National Gallery of Canada ( In a Danish museum context, only 13% (16) of the museums have games (or game-like/edutainment activities) on their websites. The majority of games are specifically targeted to children and families and have very specific learning goals; e.g., to learn about dangerous animals - where the aim is to learn more about dangerous animals by answering different questions such as "how does the crocodile kill its prey?" Other games for children make use of well-known games like memory; e.g. Art-memory ( One museum has more specifically experimented with museum games developed for an older audience. For instance, the word game Cadavre Exquis at the National Gallery of Denmark's website, was inspired by the methods and ideas of the surrealists. The aim of the game is to create a sentence in collaboration with other users (Figure 3).

Fig 3: The word game Cadavre ExquisFig 3: The word game Cadavre Exquis

So far, only 2 % of Danish museum users say that they participate in contests and play games on the Danish museum websites. Only 1% of the museum users seem to want or miss online museum contests and games (Kulturarvsstyrelsen, 2010, 29-30). However, whether this is because museum users in general dislike the idea of contests and games on museum websites, or specifically perceive and consider the Danish museums as research and knowledge institutions and therefore cannot relate museums to contests and games, is not clear.

Museum blogs

In recent years, the number of museum blogs has increased internationally. The most common goal of museum blogs is to create a more open, participatory and dialogic museum, engaging museum users in conversations about the museum, museum objects, strategies, work-behind-the-walls, etc. (Gates, 2007; Chan & Spadaccini 2007; Dicker, 2010), and thus, transforming museum users into active museum publishers, commentators, and discussants - produsers (Bruns & Jacobs, 2005).

In a Danish context, 11% (14) of the museums have one or more active blogs on their websites. At the time the data was collected, more than one museum stated on their website that they were planning to establish a blog. Some museums currently have created blogs as parts of special exhibitions and projects; therefore, a number of museums have inactive blogs on their sites.

The general objectives and content of Danish museum blogs are characterized by an apparent desire to:

  • disseminate (research) activities of the museum
  • inform and communicate news from the museum
  • relate to a special exhibition (exhibition blog)

Dissemination of research activities is especially focused on archeological excavations for the cultural heritage museums or restoration/preservation projects.

The popularity and impact of Danish museum blogs cannot be deduced from this data set; however, when examining Danish blogs it becomes evident that the predominant part has very little user comment or no comments at all - this both at large and small museums. These findings suggest that Danish online museum users in relation to museum blogs may not be produsers but should rather be categorized as passive readers. This is not due to Danes' lack of interest in the genre: 33% of Danes read blogs on a regular basis, while 20% produce blog content (Danmarks Statistik, 2009). Nevertheless, Danish online museum users do not currently appear to be interested in museum blogs or in engaging in dialogue with the museum when specifically asked about the subject (Kulturarvsstyrelsen, 2010, 30).

Facebook use

The use of social network sites in Denmark has increased significantly within the last few years. In 2008, 27% of Danes with Internet access used social network sites (Danmarks Statistik, 2008). The following year this percentage had grown to 42%; 95% of these were on Facebook (Danmarks Statistik, 2009), thus making Facebook by far the largest social media site. Since the launch in 2004, Facebook has developed from being: "a social utility that connects people with friends and others who work, study and live around them" (Skeels & Grudin, 2009, 99) to a platform with multiple functions and applications that goes far beyond the first version and intentions, and which has created new possibilities in terms of influence or the possibility to alter the users' attitudes and behavior (persuade)(Fogg, 2008). To influence or alter (Facebook) users' attitudes towards Danish museums (heighten awareness) and to change users' behavior from non-museum users to museum users are key interests for the majority of Danish museums because museums' governmental and municipal funds and subsidies depend on the number of visitors (Skot-Hansen, 2008, 34-35).

Danish museums have noted the growing popularity of Facebook, and as a result an increasing number of Danish museums have created Facebook profiles, groups, and pages in order to meet the users where they are. According to the study of Danish museums' use of social media, 50% (62) of all Danish museums are on Facebook. Of those 62, 41% (34) are cultural heritage museums and 37% (23) are art museums. One museum is a natural history museum, and four museums are special museums. However, when the museums on Facebook are analyzed within each museum category, the study reveals that almost all Danish art museums are on Facebook (89%). In comparison, no more than 51% of cultural heritage museums are on Facebook (Table 2). Of Danish museums not on Facebook, the majority are cultural heritage museums. The museums are, in general, smaller local or regional museums outside the capital area. The frequency of use of videos, games and audio/podcasts on the websites is almost on the same level as in the museums on Facebook; however, in terms of blogs, the museums not on Facebook do not use blogs as frequently as the museums on Facebook.

The predominance of museums on Facebook have given users public access to pages, profiles and groups, although a very small number of museums have limited public access. This appears to be more a mistake or misunderstanding of Facebook privacy settings than the expression of an actual wish to keep the communication limited to group members or friends.

The general tendency among Danish museums on Facebook is that the museums are very traditional in their communication and interaction on Facebook. Most museums post (or push) information about museum activities, guided tours, special talks, new exhibitions, etc. on their wall and invite Facebook users, friends and likers to participate in offline museum activities. A very limited number of museums try to engage and initiate discussions asking users specific questions. For instance, Den gamle by (The Old Town is an open-air museum - asked the users what they would like to eat in the museum café when developing a new concept. Other museums ask the users to upload photos or to help the museum with collecting objects and artefacts for special exhibitions; however, the point of departure is primarily related to the physical museum and the events there. The frequency of postings of the museums' pages, profiles and groups varies from several times a week to every half year or even less.

The size of the museums' Facebook pages, profiles or group is in most cases related to the size of the museum. This means that the largest Danish museums in terms of physical visitors are also the largest on Facebook. Hence, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art was the most visited museum in Denmark in both 2009 and 2010 at its onsite location, and is likewise online the Danish museum with most museum likers. Other large museums with large numbers of likers and group members are ARoS Aarhus Kunstmuseum, The National Museum of Denmark, Moesgaard Museum, The National Gallery of Denmark and Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek.


To create a Facebook page is most common among the Danish museums: 74% (46) of Danish museums on Facebook have created a "page" and have signed up as a "local business". A Facebook page is, according to the official Facebook definition,a page "for organizations, businesses, celebrities, and bands to broadcast great information to fans in an official, public manner" (Facebook, 2010, 1). Users can choose to express that they like the page, thus becoming likers of the page. The average number of likers per museum is 1,187. However, the number of likers varies from four likers at Helsingør Kommunes Museer (Elsinore Municipality Museums)(Figure 4) to 32,736 likers at Louisiana Museums of Modern Art (Figure 5). Louisiana is the leading Danish museum in terms of number of likers; the second and third most liked Danish museum are The National Gallery of Denmark with 2.971 likers and The National Museum of Denmark with 2.457 likers. The average numbers of Danish museum likers is 447 when the three museums with most likers are omitted. With the three museums (Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, The National Museum of Denmark and The National Gallery of Denmark) in the calculation, the average number of likers is 1187.

Fig 4: Facebook page of Helsingør Kommunes MuseerFig 4: Facebook page of Helsingør Kommunes Museer

Fig 5: Facebook page of Louisiana Museum of Modern ArtFig 5: Facebook page of Louisiana Museum of Modern Art


Of the museums on Facebook, 21% (13) have created museum groups. According to Facebook Inc., a group is organised around a real-life interest or group, though a group can also be used to declare an affiliation with, for instance, a brand (Facebook, 2007). The Danish museums' groups and pages are very similar in style of communication. However, one crucial difference between the communication from the museum pages and the museum groups is the messages. A small number of museums sends out messages to the group members' personal inboxes. These messages usually contain information about upcoming events at the physical museum; such as special seasonal activities, special exhibitions etc.

The two largest groups on Facebook are The Museum of Contemporary Art (!/group.php?gid=9176418799) and ARoS Aarhus Kunstmuseum (!/group.php?gid=12631835311&) with, respectively, 1,256 and 1,258 members. The 13 museum groups have on average fewer group members than the museums with a Facebook page. The average number of group members in the Danish Facebook groups is 106 when the two largest museum groups are disregarded (the average number of group members including The Museum of Contemporary Art and ARoS Aarhus Kunstmuseum is 300 members).


Of the Danish museums on Facebook, 5% (3) have created profiles, and the number of friends ranges from 134 to 990 friends. Two of these museums have converted the profile into Facebook pages after the data was collected. One of the reasons for this was to avoid hitting the limitations of 5000 friends for Facebook profiles. Bornholm Art Museum (!/profile.php?id=760972937&) has added personal information and features such as gender, relationship status, likes and interests to its profile in order to create the image of a person and not an institution, and communicates and interacts on Facebook (almost) as if it were a real person. Thus friends of the museum can check when the museum is online and which events the museum attends - mainly other museums or gallery events - and comment on walls, both other museum walls and walls of its friends.

Other social media

The data regarding the Danish museums' use of social media other than Facebook is scarce. Facebook is by far the most popular of the social media in Denmark; thus is the most used by Danish museums. Of the other social media applications examined, YouTube and Flickr have very limited usage among Danish museums, and Twitter and Foursquare are even less. Only 7% (9) of Danish museums have created a YouTube channel: these nine museums consist of mainly art museums (6). About 7% (8) of the museums have Flickr accounts although 25% (2) of the museums did not have any photos on the account. Only a single museum uses Twitter and Foursquare (as of May-June 2010),although, it was observed in January 2011 that at least one other Danish museum is on Twitter and 15 other museums are on Foursquare. In this sense, Danish museums cannot be considered as early adaptors and, compared with other cultural institutions, e.g. libraries, the museums are lagging behind.

Online Presence and the act of just being there

All of the Danish museums have an online presence, primarily in the form of websites and Facebook pages, but the number of museums using other social media sites or applications is increasing. The general objective with the online presence appears to be first and foremost directed towards potential visitors, offering information needed in order to plan a physical museum visit. The museums primarily have static text and images with few possibilities of engagement or interaction; in particular, blogs and Facebook, which in theory allow and encourage user engagement and participation. However, in reality the predominance of Danish museum users display little interest in participation and interaction with the museums. On Facebook Danish museums have in total 59,978 likes, friends and group members. The 59,978 should not be confused with unique users. A number of users are likers: friends or group members of more than one museum.

That 59,978 correspond more or less to 10% of MoMA The Museum of Modern Art's likers of their Facebook page ( The likers, friends and group members of the Danish museums, interact very little with the museums on Facebook, making few comments, likes, uploads, etc. Some Danish museums do try to engage the users in more unusual and nontraditional approaches on Facebook. For example, the National Museum of Denmark and its Facebook project Flirt, Philosophy and Facebook has as its main character a young woman from the Danish aristocracy in the latter half of the 18th century, Ida Charlotte. Ida Charlotte had a page on Facebook and posted and discussed her love life and daily difficulties with life. The aim of the project was to highlight the historical period; it was targeted at young women. The project began in April 2010 and ended in October 2010. The likers of the page engaged and interacted with the main character of the project, giving comments to the character and each other. The page had 856 likers - twice as many as the average number of likers of other Danish museums sites.

In relation to Danish museum blogs, a general finding is the low prevalence of user comments. The majority of the 11% of Danish museums with blogs on their websites have few comments or none at all. This, of course, does not necessarily suggest a genuine lack of interest in Danish museums, but complies with the so-called "90-9-1" rule - 90% of the users are lurkers who read and observe but do not contribute; 9% contribute from time to time; and only 1% of users participate and contribute actively (Nielsen, 2006). In comparison to these percentages, 7% of Danish online museum users have expressed the view that they lack the possibility of engaging in a dialogue with museums on the museum sites; 1% of the users would like to have the possibility of creating content themselves; and 10% of museum Web users wish to review and comment on exhibitions on the museum websites. In the national survey of Danish Web museum users from the Heritage Agency of Denmark, the respondents were asked to consider the importance of 6 statements regarding the use of social media and museums on a scale from 1-4 (Kulturarvsstyrelsen, 2010, 30).

As previously stated, the defining aspects of social media are interaction, community and collaboration. A comparison of these aspects with the general characteristics of Danish online museum communication reveals that these features are not really present or emerging. The German media researcher Werner Schweibenz presented four levels of museums on the Web in 2004 in which the brochure metaphor was the first level. Steven Dietz presented in 1998 at the second Museums and the Web conference the paper "Curating (on) the Web" in which he introduces brochure-ware as a metaphor for the museum Web site. However, Dietz did not reflect more upon the brochure metaphor since he considered this era as already past (Dietz, 1998). The brochure museum is, according to Schweibenz, characterized as an information-based website with basic information about the museum (Schweibenz, 2004). The brochure metaphor fits Danish museums online and also Danish museums' use of social media. A study from 2008 of the Danish art museums' websites indicates that the Danish art websites are digital showcases where future museum visitors can get information about the museum and its activities (Warberg Løssing, 2008, 29). The present study additionally suggests that the brochure or digital showcase metaphor applies to Danish cultural heritage museums, the natural history museums, and the special museums as well.

Variation in the museums' online presence differs according to the type of museum. The numbers of natural history museums and special museums in Denmark are very low: this makes it difficult to deduce general perspectives from these two categories. The cultural heritage and the art museums are very alike in relation to online exhibitions and the use of video on their websites: 39% of the cultural heritage museums and 35% of the art museums have online exhibitions on their websites, while 45% of the cultural heritage museums and 46% of the art museums use videos on their websites. However, in relation to the use of games and social media - blogs and Facebook - the number of art museums using them is almost twice the number of cultural heritage museums using them. In 2008, a report on Danish museums' strategic communication concluded that the least strategic Danish museums are smaller cultural heritage museums. The characterizing feature of these museums is low prioritization of communication, including online communication (Bysted-Sandberg & Kjeldsen, 2008, 15).

If we perceive Danish museums' online presence is still following the brochure metaphor, this could explain the diminutive interaction, community and collaboration on the websites and services examined, since this style of communication does not incite online museum users to become produsers. It appears that museums' online communicators still consider users as passive recipients, and even though museums are online on various online platforms, the general experience is that museums are simply present, but not active.


This paper has examined how Danish museums use social media in their online communications. It is not just about having an online presence for museums. I would argue that if museums want an online presence, then the crucial point is that their presence must be active. What the museums actually do online if they want to engage and interact with the online museum users is critical.

The study has shown that Danish museums to a high degree consider and use their online communications, including social media usage, as a means to attract more visitors to onsite museums. The general characteristics of Danish museums' online presence resemble an online brochure, and the museums do not use the potential of social media format in their communication. I would argue that Danish museums are not early innovators in terms of social media, and their ability to pick up on emerging trends in online communication is rather limited as a result of minimal resources and competencies.

The paper has discussed the use of social media by Danish museums, perfunctorily examining a few selected aspects and features of Danish museums' online presence. However, from this paper the relationship between online museum users, their affiliations with museums, and how the museums' presence on e.g. Facebook affects online museum users' preconceptions and experiences of Danish museums cannot be deduced. In order to get a deeper understanding of social media usage among Danish museums, further studies and research are needed. For example, users' own perspectives and wishes should be examined in more detail, and also the importance of interplay between user request and web presence trends.


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Cite as:

Holdgaard, N., The Use of Social Media in the Danish Museum Landscape. In J. Trant and D. Bearman (eds). Museums and the Web 2011: Proceedings. Toronto: Archives & Museum Informatics. Published March 31, 2011. Consulted