OpenGLAM at the “Long Night of Museums” in Basel

  • GLAM

SUSTAINABILITY is one of the issues the Swiss Open Cultural Data Hackathon is dealing with: What happens to the hackathon projects after the hackathon? How to ensure that the projects are further developed and not fully abandoned? How to make them known to a broader audience? The “Long Nights of Museums”, which take place in different cities of Switzerland throughout the year, provide interesting platforms to investigate the sustainability of hackathon projects and the reception they get from the audience.

It’s Friday evening in mid-January. The nave of the Barfüsserkirche, home to Basel’s Historical Museum, is barely recognisable: a cloud of white balloons is floating over the medieval sculptures gathered next to the stage hosting the numerous performances of the night. The light is dimmed, the music is not. Right by the entrance, people wearing virtual reality glasses are immersed in an invisible space. They are visiting a virtual exhibition.

Photo: Databases and Information Systems (DBIS) Group, University of Basel.

The virtual exhibition is a new version of a project developed at our 2018 GLAMhack at the Swiss National Museum. “Walking around the Globe – VR Picture Expedition”, as it was originally entitled, had won the “Brand New” category of the GLAMhack Awards. Some of the project team members, all affiliated to the “Computer Science” studies at the University of Basel, took the initiative to present their project at the Long Night of Museums. The initial exhibition was widely modified as the original exhibits were replaced by artefacts from the Historical Museum’s own collections: photographs, prints and paintings which all show the Barfüsserkirche. In addition to the images, the museum provided explanatory labels, which were “hung” next to the exhibits on the virtual walls.

In order to inform the visitors about the context in which the project was developed as well as the OpenGLAM ideology and goals, organised a stand with posters listing the five principles of OpenGLAM. Videos of the final presentations of the 2018 hackathon projects were shown on a screen and the visitors could take home postcards with information about Many people showed interest in what OpenGLAM stands for.

Photo: Historisches Museum Basel, Natascha Jansen.

The Long Night of Museums seems an ideal platform to engage an audience with interactive projects, especially those involving new technologies such as VR glasses. The VR exhibition was a big success telling from the people queuing to try it out. In this case, the event also provided a motive for the team to further develop their project, using new data and working with new partners. The “Walking around the Globe – VR Picture Expedition” is therefore a very nice example of the life of a hackathon project after the hackathon.

The Long Night of Museums in Basel took place on Friday 18 January 2019. 10’000 visitors came to the Barfüsserkirche between 18h and 4h.