Why a Virtual Kunsthalle Bielefeld at all?

How the first prototype came to be

The trigger

Even if the preparatory processes have been smouldering for some time, most stories of major digitization projects from recent years begin with Corona and this one is no exception. The pandemic also acted as an accelerator for long-standing discussions and efforts in the museum sector. In the course of NEUSTART KULTUR among others the funds from the cultural promotion program dive in of the German Federal Cultural Foundation made it possible for us to work together with the agency SIMPLE GmbH since Fall 2020 to create the remarkable architecture of our Kunsthalle Bielefeld in the virtual space. In the midst of the everyday practical challenges of this time due to hygiene requirements and recurring lockdowns, it became a helpful working tool for exhibition planning and a connecting workspace between the picture tiles of our Zoom offices.

It was clear from the start that internal use for more sustainable exhibition planning does not exhaust the possibilities of a medium such as VR. As an element of our educational and mediation work, it can also create new approaches to museum content beyond classic exhibition tours, creating a different museum experience that fits in with a changed society. At the Virtuelle Kunsthalle, we have had the same experience during the pandemic as so many other people: Digital spaces cannot fully reproduce what is special about a physical encounter, but they can also add new qualities to cultural work.

This left only one short but complex question: How?

How do we create the best possible interplay between virtual and analog museums? How do we create content that is suitable for the medium and exciting for as many people as possible? How can we establish the necessary new work processes and aquire resources and at the same time integrate the new museum area as closely as possible into the existing day-to-day work processes and existing resources? In view of the changing demands of a digitalized society and the goals of future-oriented museum work (with concepts such as participation, co-creation and design thinking), it became clear that we need new and diverse voices, both inside and outside the museum!

With the help of the program trainee researcher for art museums in NRW, we were able to bring a perspective from media cultural studies into the team at the beginning of 2023, who created a prototype from the 1st Virtual OG based on the existing technology of the Virtuelle Kunsthalle, media analytical aspects and our collection as early as May 2023. With this basis for discussion in hand, we were eager to hear the feedback from users. We ask for these at events in the museum (e.g. Let’s get real or Glasses on and then …?) and outside of it (e.g. in the GamerSpace of the Bielefeld City Library or the Luna Sennestadt children’s and youth center (further collaborations are planned)). It’s always fun to dive into the Virtual Kunsthalle together with newcomers and have conversations about it.

Criticism, praise and suggestions are evaluated and incorporated while we create prototype number two. However, we are not working on this alone, but in co-creative meetings together with a group of people we have met at our events. If you are interested in taking part, you can find the information here.

Until the 2nd prototype is ready, we will continue to hold the current events. We look forward to continuing to test the Virtuelle Kunsthalle together with you and to discovering new perspectives on art, digital art, museums and their interplay through your opinions and valuable suggestions. If you feel like dropping by: Click here for the dates.

Supported within the framework of ‘Neustart Kultur’

Logo of the Neustart Kultur program, funded by the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media. It is a dark gray square. It says Neu, Start, Kultur in capital letters san serif, in blue, red and light brown.

The work on the research project was carried out in 2023 and 2024 as part of the state-funded program ‘Forschungsvolontariat Kunstmuseen NRW’.

Black and white logo, the name of the institution flush left and the coat of arms of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia flush right.