Statens Museum for Kunst National Gallery of Denmark (SMK) relaunched their website in March of 2010, and in English May 2010. It seems that one of the challenges previously facing the SMK website was the ability to reach a broader public while equally communicating the same level of information in both languages. The SMK website has been confronted with the issue of “public as plural”, when communicating to a more widespread audience, as Sharon Macdonald, Professor of Social Anthropology at the University of Manchester, explains:
museums have come to give greater priority to the envisaged needs or desires of potential audiences in planning their exhibitions, and, increasingly, they conceptualize “their public as plural.”
Complexities in reaching a greater web audience can be observed from instances where information is limited for its English visitors, although some unavailable information is unlikely a concern for the average virtual visitor, it brings attention to the misleading perception that the omission of pertinent information may be a result arising from non translation. This issue of creating a universal language to communicate globally is a challenge facing many museums.
From a museum education perspective, the SMK websites exhibition information is used to effectively promote visitation. Each exhibition is surrounded by related programming, and information providing artists bios, interviews, and an offered synopsis of featured works. Each curatorial synopsis conveys such interpretation theory as described with the role of Hermeneutics which tells us that “the construction of meaning depends on prior knowledge, and on the beliefs and values. We see according to what we know, and we make sense of meaning according to what we see.” In this way, Hermeneutic learning theory is introduced to the virtual visitor which then allows for a personal analysis of the works. These interpretations expose an insight for the aforementioned ”construction of meanings” when reading about the exhibitions. The visitors interpretations are challenged and visitors are stimulated by the learning process.
The success of SMKs website can also be measured through the visitors experience and understanding of collections, such results are achieved when placing museum education at the forefront of exhibitions. The SMK website virtually communicates the experience of the exhibitions and increases visitor interactivity with its collections. This educational framework plays on the key issues of importance which our observed in the “educational role of the museum, where three words reoccur: education, interpretation and communication.” The SMK website prioritizes the role of placing education at its forefront of each exhibition and programming, by promoting the audience experience, as the SMK mission clearly states:
“Mission: The National Gallery of Denmark is Denmark’s premier museum of art. Through:
• Accessibility, education, and exhibition
— the gallery is tasked with elucidating Danish and foreign art, primarily art from Western culture dating from the 14th century onwards.”
SMK has prioritized the role of education when considering that “every action of the museum should aim to serve the public and their education.” The SMK website accomplishes this by providing information on learning provisions within the museum for students and adults through courses and workshops influencing interactivity and engaging museum visitors with collections.
The SMK’s subsidiary site, U.L.K. unges laboratorier for kunst, has created a platform for a “24 hour online museum community and laboratory”. U.L.K. has expanded the interactivity with youths on a separate online outreach project which allows students to showcase and collaborate their ideas and receive feedback. These online programs along with their online Blog: SMK digital, has initiated an advisory panel of both Danish and International specialist to aid with SMK’s transition to a digital Museum. Installations of such online projects which are adapted to a specific audiences needs can be related to Caroline Lang, Learning Centre Project Manager at the Victoria and Albert Museums, ideas on the ‘changes in museum culture’ from The Public Access Debate, where it reads: “Museums are well placed to offer opportunities for personalized learning in rich environments, but they have to be able and willing to adapt to learners” own agendas. Research into different ways in which people learn is of great significance for museums, and work on experiential learning and different learning styles is being applied to museums and is changing our understanding of the kind of information and interpretation which is needed for today’s visitors.
The Danish National Gallery plans to continue addressing the needs of the digital age by “investing in a five-year developmental program to bring the museum to the very forefront of digital arts communication. The investment – SMK digital – has been made possible through a donation from the Nordea-Foundation.” There will be an installation of an online art data base, called Corpus, which “will make information and allow access on the museums collections, research and exhibition activities”. This system will promote learning and global access to the Danish Royal Museums collections.
The reconstruction of the SMK website is a continued work in process, as is addressing requirements for a growing population aimed at meeting the educational needs of an ever changing world. Inspiring creativity through association is a reflection of today’s educational climate, just as suggested at the 1999 National Museum Directors Conference that “the new digital services must have the ability to respond to people’s different interests and to their diverse requirements and cultural and learning preferences.” With this in mind, SMK website has acknowledged that education is taking the lead throughout museum departments as museum staff are becoming more aware of their interrelatedness with education. The virtual museum is the beginning of challenging these educational ideas globally to ideally result in an exchange of information that is valued to all.