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ARtours: The Augmented Reality project of the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam

ARtours is the augmented reality project which is initiated by the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam in collaboration with design bureau Fabrique. As the museum is awaiting its grand re-opening, the time is right to explore the possibilities of new media technology and innovate the ways in which its fantastic collection of modern and contemporary art & design (90.000 objects) can be presented and the magnificent stories and interpretations that surround these objects can be shared.


The ARtours project entails the creation of an open source platform based on augmented reality (AR) technology, using smartphones with GPS/compass function and AR applications such as Layar. It is interesting technology as it allows museums to re-use their digitized collection and reposition it on all possible locations in the urban realm on the small personal screens that people carry with them all the time.


The dialogue between the virtual artifact and the real place, presented on a very small screen, leads to many interesting questions such as: what kind of experiences do the small screens of the deployed mobile phones offer us? How do these ARtours relate to the more conventional multimedia museum tours? What is the surplus value of this combination of the real and the virtual for the museum collection? What new ‘layered’ stories can we share and what new dialogues with the audience can we create by means of this new technique? What forms of future curating can one develop with this ‘real virtuality’?
One of the major goals of ARtours is to come up with answers to these questions.

Outside and inside

The first phase the project (2010) focuses on the creation of platform/content management system for  augmented reality tours outside in the public realm. Moreover, there will be several explorations of its cultural and artistic use and theoretical investigations of the cultural significance of AR technology (2010). In the second phase (2011) the project will move over to the inside of the museum and explore how augmented reality can play a significant role in the white cube. In the final stage the system will be made available for the public as well, allowing everyone to create their own ARtour. 


The ARtours project consists of several smaller and larger projects that test the (interactive) augmented reality platform both inside and outside the museum. So far the AR Art exposition ‘Me at the museumplein’ (spring/summer 2010) and the Stedelijk ‘ARthoteque’  at popfestival Lowlands (August 2010) and Picnic 2010 (September 2010) have been succesfull. At this moment we are working hard on a Stedelijk Designtour in which the Stedelijk Design collection (the largest of the Netherlands) will be presented in the streets, squares and parcs of Amsterdam. Moreover ARtours is currently working with several artists in order to explore the artistic value of the project  for the museum, both in- and outside the building. And last but not least the project is presented at many national and international seminars and platforms in order to share knowledge and stimulate critical reflection on the project.


ARtours is a hybrid project where many technological, cultural and educational partners are collaborating. Besides the Stedelijk Museum and Fabrique, the following partners have been involved: Medialab of the University/Hogeschool of Amsterdam, De Waag society, NIMK, PICNIC, LowLands and many others.  


The project is run by a.o.: 
Margriet Schavemaker (head of collections and research, Stedelijk Museum) 
Hein Wils (projectleader ARtours)
Jeroen van Erp (Fabrique)
Ebelien Pondaag (Fabrique)
Paul Stork (Fabrique)
But of course much work is done by many of their colleagues and partner institutions. 


The first two years of the ARtours project (2010/2011) are generously supported by the Dutch Ministry of Culture (Innovatie Cultuuruitingen/agentschap.nl). Many great additional ARtours projects however have not been fully financed yet and need additional funding. Interested in supporting us? Please contact: h.wils@stedelijk.nl

More info on ARtours

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