Project Manager and Digital Advisor at the Danish Agency for Culture and Palaces and the Danish Arts Foundation

The Danish Agency for Culture and Palaces in Copenhagen is an agency under the Danish Ministry for Culture, which also acts as the secretariat for the Danish Arts Foundation, an arms-length body for the governmental art funding.

The agency’s work with the visual arts for the foundation has among its central goals: internationalizing Danish art and culture, and connecting and engaging the public with its sculptures, paintings, design, and jewelry. In collaboration with the Danish Arts Foundation, the Agency takes collection information, and in some cases the physical works themselves, to the public via the web, social media, mobile devices, and public spaces. Morten Nybo, Project Manager and Digital Advisor responsible for the Danish Arts Foundation’s website—Vores Kunst (Our Art)—plays a pivotal role in helping the Agency achieve these goals.

On the website, visitors can find images and descriptions of 13,000 works of Danish art, including over 1,200 art installations in public spaces throughout Denmark. Visitors can also download an app on their phone that gives them additional information about these works in public spaces, such as location and links to related works.

In our interview with Morten he discusses his digital communications projects and shares his challenges and inspirations.

1. What is the biggest challenge your team faces on a daily basis?

At the moment it is working with copyright, securing a viable data structure, and using our digital collections to tell the story of the impact of art in public spaces on our eMuseum site, titled Vores Kunst (Our Art), and through social media.

There is always a political dimension to the work we do in regards to how public funds are spent. This is especially true in the context of the Danish Arts Foundation, which is a government funded, arm’s-length body. Considerations on overall data structure and the content is a daily task because the registration and digitization was originally completed without publication in mind.

As practice has changed over time we are cleaning up, standardizing, and enriching data so it can reflect the history, reality, and impact of art in public spaces for members of the public, politicians, scholars, and the press—all of whom have an interest in the subject. Another side of this is that we have researched the subject and want to be able to use our data in relation to external data sources, such as Statistics Denmark, and for research purposes in general. Finally, it is our goal to set all our data free, and a good, stringent, intuitive data structure is an important step. However, this requires a lot of work with structuring and communicating copyright with artists and rights organizations, in addition to the tasks connected with working with the data.

Danish Arts Foundation Website

Vores Kunst (Our Art)

2. How do you see the use of technology in your institution evolving?

The cultural sector in Denmark is becoming more progressive, and in the government context in which I work, digitization and digital collections have been a big focus area over the last decade. The potential is becoming more and more interesting.

Technology is also playing a bigger part in our daily work. Traditionally, technology has been used mainly in our administrative efforts and citizen services in order to have smoother processing and clearer communication with users and citizens. This is fortunately changing a bit, and there is starting to be a bigger focus on communication initiatives. This elevates the importance of opening up our data, as it is required to meet the public where they are: on social media, at the institutions, and in public spaces.

In the Danish Ministry of Culture there is currently a focus on working with data-based statistics and analytics in all areas of the administration to support better evidence-based policies as well as to provide counseling to the cultural sector. This is also a current focus area for my work with art in public spaces, which again stresses the need for an informed data structure.

3. What is the one change you’ve made at your institution that has had the biggest impact?

Our organization is a bit atypical in this context, as arts and collections is a rather small part of our main work (which is more legislation, administration, and policy implementation), but I think the biggest change I have made in the organization is creating and gaining support for a more progressive line in digital strategy for the Danish Arts Foundation. The creation of our digital collections on Vores Kunst (Our Art) was the first step. In addition to the digital collections, other important changes have been opening up our data to the public via co-creation events such as hackathons, and better utilizing social media and our partnerships.

4. If you were given $100,000 to spend on management of your collection or department, how would you use it?

I’d probably spend some of it scanning, digitizing, and enriching a lot of documents from our archives—letters and sketches from artists mainly—but also documents and old articles and letters from the public that tell the story of how art, and especially art in public spaces, intervenes in the public domain for better or worse.

The rest I would most likely put into educational and user-driven initiatives, and development to improve how we structure and facilitate our online resources.

5. Do you have a favorite book, event or training resource that has helped or motivated you in your career?

My general motivations for working with technology in the humanities include conferences, daily tech updates, and other geeky things such as academic literature on tech and society.

Most of my inspiration for frontend projects is driven by things that happen outside the cultural sector, and often in the commercial sectors, though I sometimes find inspiration in the art scene as well.

Working with TMS and eMuseum, our meeting in the Nordic TMS group, as well as countless sessions and emails with Jon Thristan and Kevin Arista from Gallery Systems, has helped me understand the system and how to best utilize it in our context.

6. What is one of the most interesting projects or exhibitions organized by your institution and why?

I think the cultural hackathons, such as our annual hack4DK from the Danish Ministry of Culture in collaboration with the National Gallery of Denmark, Danish Broadcasting Network, the National Museum, the National Archives, and the Danish Film Institute among others, as well as Story Jams (an initiative to create new digital means of storytelling and digital books) has been the most interesting in this context. Getting an outside perspective on our digital collections to learn how we can create value and facilitate data in a meaningful way, and just the sheer playfulness of the participants, has been incredibly inspiring, both as a means to have an organizational discussion on our digital collections and strategy, and in terms of working with new users. Many of the participants are not regular users of the physical museums so it is a way for us to work with purely digital users.

7. If you were allowed to take home one item from your collection, what would it be and why?

Tough one—it would most likely be photo pieces either by Astrid Kruse Jensen or Adam Jeppesen, though the website does not do their work justice and we need to restock with better images. The pieces have a quietness and calmness to them that I find amazing (quite possibly because of the contrast to my daily work life), as well as some mystery that I find intriguing.