The Städel Museum's Digital Offers
Städel Digital: Against the background of the increasing digitalization of everyday life, the extension of our educational mission into the digital realm is of key importance.
Mission Statement of the Digital Extension of the Städel Museum
An alternative offer in parallel to the real, physical museum visit is made accessible through the digital extension of the Städel Museum with new technologies and communication paths. This extension’s objective is to fulfil the institution’s educational mandate also in the digital era, further expand the range of this mandate, and utilize innovative technological developments for the museum’s core responsibilities.
Art History Online - The Städel Course on Modern Art
The Städel Museum in Frankfurt has developed an innovative educational format that seeks to set a new standard in the realm of online education: “Art History Online – The Städel Course on Modern Art” is a comprehensive, free online course, made up of films, texts, interactive tasks and an additional timeline covering more than two hundred years of art history, from the eighteenth century to the present day. The large-scale project has been realized in cooperation with the Art History Chair and the Centre for Digital Cultures at Leuphana University of Lüneburg. Based on more than 250 works from the Städel Museum’s collection, this online course provides users with an enriching learning experience. In contrast to so-called Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC), “Art History Online” supports flexible self-study in European art history, accompanied by the noted German actor Sebastian Blomberg. The varied multimedia programme addresses a broad, international audience with an interest in art, teaching both a toolset of visual skills and background knowledge to further enrich their encounters with modern art. Along with introductory and explanatory films on various major topics, users will find hands-on learning formats, detailed texts, and a comprehensive timeline of historical events, artists, and key works of modern art. In total the course offers up to forty hours of material which users can delve into at varying depths, depending on their individual interests. Whereas Sebastian Blomberg serves as a guide through the course, the sound was designed by the Berlin musician Boys Noize. The new digital offer is designed for all who wish to attain a knowledge of art history and iconography in an appealing manner and on their own schedule. It responds to a growing international interest in understanding the history of modern art while at the same time shedding light on historical developments in society at large. Serving as both introduction and follow-up, the online course is as attractive to users who know nothing at all about art history as for those with basic knowledge. It can be used in combination with school and college courses or professional training, or simply as an entertaining and informative look at art history for its own sake. This offer is in keeping with the Städel Museum’s overriding desire to extend its educational efforts far beyond the physical boundaries of the museum and, in an up-to-date and innovative way, inspire various target groups to engage with art and culture.
The online course was sponsored by the Städelscher Museums-Verein e.V.
Course method and structure
The Städel Museum’s online course provides a varied learning environment for guided self-study. In doing so, it makes use of the possibilities offered by the digital realm, for example a range of textual links in different mediums. Based on roughly 250 works selected from the Städel’s own collection, the programme effectively combines films, texts, a comprehensive timeline and interactive tasks in which users can put their newly acquired knowledge to the test. Questions and problems that introduce multiple perspectives on specific works and subject matter guide the users’ approach to art. Instead of presenting art-historical facts in a dry, chronological sequence, the Städel Museum’s online course reveals relationships between artists and works, even those of very different epochs. It teaches how to understand the visible iconography and how to discover hidden meanings. Users develop a sense of the different contexts in which works are created, they see how and why artists and artists’ groups come together and make reference to each other, and how different institutions deal with art. The programme ultimately enables those who complete it to appreciate art more independently and critically.
The course is divided into five modules. Instead of following a chronological order, these modules focus on important topics, each building on the last:
- Module 1 – Learning to see: analysis of pictorial forms and motifs
- Module 2 – Discovering what is hidden: the different contexts in which artworks are created
- Module 3 – Exploring positions: artistic programmes and classification systems
- Module 4 – Finding connections: correspondences between artists and their works
- Module 5 – Collecting and presenting: the museum and its role in the world of art
A roughly five-minute film at the beginning of each module introduces its main theme. These films are entertainingly moderated by the stage and screen actor Sebastian Blomberg. Along with detailed texts, each building on the one before, films on individual works and topics provide relevant art-historical and iconographic information on which the user can draw while working on the tasks. The timeline, with information about works, artists, styles and schools as well as historical and cultural contexts, can be consulted at any time. Each module ends with a wrap-up review of its major focus. Users can progress through the five modules at their own pace, stopping to explore a topic in greater detail or moving on to the next. An in-depth study of the course takes around forty hours.
Interested parties need only register at the website onlinecourse.staedelmuseum.de – and can then start the course immediately. It is offered at no cost, and can be used on computers and tablets. It is optimized for modern browsers.
Art education in digital space
“Art History Online – The Städel Course on Modern Art” was sponsored by the Städelscher Museums-Verein, a society of friends of the museum established in 1899. In addition to facilitating new acquisitions and ensuring the growth of the museum’s collection, this association is strongly involved in the promotion of scholarly work and educational projects like the present one. The realization of the Städel’s first online course has been a joint effort of the society and the museum. Given the increasing digitalization of everyday life, it is crucial for cultural institutions to expand their educational mandate to include the digital realm and provide free programmes offering all potential users new access to art and culture. When the Frankfurt museum celebrated its two-hundred-year jubilee in 2015, it pledged to pursue a course of “digital extension.” This online course in modern art is a first demonstration of how up-to-the-minute, innovative, and – best of all – entertaining digital education in the field of art can be.
Art History Online -
The Städel Course on Modern Art
Launch: 16 November 2016
Technical requirements: The course can be used on computers and tablets and is optimized for modern browsers.
A production of the Städel Museum in collaboration with the Art History Chair and the Centre for Digital Cultures at Leuphana University of Lüneburg
Overall concept: Dr. Chantal Eschenfelder (Director of Education, Städel Museum), Prof. Beate Söntgen (Professor of Art History, Leuphana University of Lüneburg), Herbert Schwarze (dramatic advisor, Berlin)
Technical concept, design and realization: agenturfuerkrankemedien GmbH, Berlin
Sponsor: Städelscher Museums-Verein e.V.
Additional support from: maze pictures GmbH, Munich & Berlin
Time Machine – Web Special and VR App Visualise Historical Hangings
As of today, the historical locations of the Städel Museum in the years 1816, 1833, and 1878, the respective presentations of the collection, and the works on display then can be viewed and relived online. The results of long-term research and reconstruction work on the history of collecting at the Städel Museum and the different forms of its holdings’ presentation in the nineteenth century are now freely accessible at http://zeitreise.staedelmuseum.de. Another way of experiencing the research results virtually live is to download the app developed especially for the mobile virtual reality headset “Samsung Gear VR” from the Oculus Store.
The website of the research project realised under Jochen Sander, Head of German, Dutch and Flemish Paintings before 1800, offers accurate and detailed 3D reconstructions of the presentation of the Städel’s collection at its three locations. Both the museum founder Johann Friedrich Städel’s private house on Rossmarkt of 1816 and the palace on Neue Mainzer Strasse, the first actual museum building accommodating the collection from 1833 on, were elaborately reconstructed. The new building on Schaumainkai, which opened its doors in 1878 and has been home to the museum to this day, and its original presentation are also part of the journey through time. The website includes in-depth information on the provenance of all paintings belonging to the collection at the respective points in time, details on the history of sales and losses, relevant inventory entries, and texts from selected nineteenth-century catalogues. Entries from scholarly catalogues presenting the collection’s holdings shed light on the current state of research. The website also offers a virtual tour through the interior of the rooms on Schaumainkai as they presented themselves in 1878. One may take this tour by using either a programme for personal computers or an app for the virtual reality headset “Samsung Gear VR,” which provide completely new insights.
This ground-breaking project shows how the most recent technological developments may be used for the generation and presentation of art-historical research results concerning an institution’s history of collecting and exhibiting its holdings in an appealing and beneficial manner. This contemporary and freely accessible presentation of research addresses both experts and interested lay people.
“The analysis of historical collection contexts has become a central scholarly issue. Revealing, not least, how tied to a particular period our perception of artworks is, the digital visualisation of how the Städel Museum presented its holdings in the nineteenth century is the first reconstruction of its kind that concerns an important civic collection,” Dr. Jochen Sander, deputy Director of the Städel, Head of German, Dutch and Flemish Paintings before 1800, and head of the research project, points out.
The VR implementation of the project “Time Machine. The Städel Museum in the Nineteenth Century” has been made possible by Samsung Electronics, Corporate Partner of the Städel Museum. The research project could be realised with additional support from the Foundation Polytechnische Gesellschaft Frankfurt am Main.
“Solutions such as ‘Gear VR’ have rapidly turned virtual reality from a presumably distant future issue to a practical everyday technology that offers us completely new experiences and insights,” says Martin Börner, Deputy President Samsung Electronics GmbH. “The Städel’s VR app demonstrates impressively how virtual reality makes historical contexts and scholarly achievements come alive.”
Thanks to the intense research work undertaken by the Städel, visitors can explore the various historical exhibition rooms und hangings from the beginnings of the Städel Museum in digital three-dimensional constructions on the website. This allows to compare the institution’s changing forms of presentation and to have a closer look at its manifold transformations. The project started as early as in the 1990s with the transcription of the historical inventory books in the museum’s old masters department; these inventories were used for preparing the scholarly catalogues of the collection’s holdings and the reconstruction of the paintings’ provenance. Following the international standards in the field, the information was systematised and entered into a database in 2011/12. Historical documents provided details for the visualisation of the works’ exact presentations: mounting plans, inventory books, gallery guides, and catalogues convey a good impression of how the collection was presented in 1816, 1833, and 1878. Important sources have been digitised and are accessible on the website. Four views of rooms in the museum on the Neue Mainzer Strasse painted by the British artist Mary Ellen Best (1809–1891) in 1835 as well as the photographs of the interior of the building on Schaumainkai in the archives of the Städel Museum proved to be particularly useful for the reconstruction. The results of the art historian Corina Meyer’s study Die Geburt des bürgerlichen Kunstmuseums – Johann Friedrich Städel und sein Kunstinstitut in Frankfurt am Main published in 2013 were also taken into consideration.
The state of research on Baroque hanging
The art-historical interest in past contexts of collecting and presenting works of art has increased considerably in recent years. The historical presentations of the painting galleries in Dresden, Kassel, Vienna, Paris, and Düsseldorf, all of which are based on eighteenth-century princely collections, have thus been analysed, for instance. The reconstruction of the presentations of the Städel’s collection in the nineteenth century now provides the first example of an important civic collection; the Städel Museum, which celebrated its bicentennial in 2015, is the oldest German museum foundation of this kind. Unlike the aristocratic collections of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries motivated by prestige purposes, the civic Städel, informed by the ideals of Enlightenment, saw itself as an educational institution committed to the city’s society from its very beginnings. Art-historical significance instead of ceremonial self-presentation determined the selection of works and their presentation. These new ideals became manifest in the arrangement of the art works in the museum’s rooms of which the complex visualisation of the layout of the rooms and the hanging of the works now conveys a perfect impression for the first time by means of 3D reconstructions.
As the reconstructions reveal in a visually impressive manner, the symmetrical hanging made the walls art works in themselves: the pictures were arranged close to each other on coloured walls in line with the imaginary central axis of the room in vertical columns and horizontal registers. Pendants hung in mirror-inverted positions could be directly related to each other visually. This sumptuous, even, apparently harmonious presentation of paintings, which immediately invited the visitor to comparisons, would be regarded as the ideal solution in terms of presentation and education not only at the Städel until about 1900. It was only in the early twentieth century that the form of hanging common today came to prevail: the new approach was concerned with seeing the individual work exert its auratic effect by itself. This development, which has already been outstripped by the museum and exhibition practice in the meantime, culminated in the presentation ideal of the white cube. This is why “Time Machine” not least elucidates how tied to a particular period our patterns of viewing works of art are.
A new digital component of the Städel Museum
The reconstruction of the Städel collections’ historical hangings at http://zeitreise.staedelmuseum.de is part of the institution’s manifold digital programme. The Städel innovatively tackles core tasks of the museum such as education and research by using the possibilities of digitisation. Employing novel technologies and narrative forms, the Frankfurt institution develops and continuously expands a freely accessible offer parallel to the actual visit of its collections. This considerably extends its range of influence independent of its location, providing new paths of access for a large variety of target groups. As the Städel’s digital approach comprises all spheres of museum work such as restoration, exhibition design, or the cataloguing of works in its collection, all its key concerns—collection, preservation, research, presentation, and communication—benefit from digital innovations. The most recent example is a comprehensive free-of-charge course on the history of art from about 1750 to the present (http://onlinekurs.staedelmuseum.de) put online around mid-March 2016, which opens up new paths in the field of educational programmes on the Internet.
The research project “Time Machine. The Städel Museum in the Nineteenth Century” is realised in collaboration with the Städel Cooperation Professorship at the Art History Institute of the Goethe University of Frankfurt.
Research Project “Time Machine. The Städel Museum in the Nineteenth Century”
Project management: Prof. Dr. Jochen Sander, deputy Director of the Städel and Head of German, Dutch and Flemish Paintings before 1800
Assistants: Dr. Almut Pollmer-Schmidt, Yannic Jäckel
Download of the programme and the VR headset app: http://zeitreise.staedelmuseum.de/vr-app/
Technical requirements: The web special “Time Machine” can be used on computers and tablets and has been optimised for modern browsers. The VR app has been conceived for the terminal devices Samsung Galaxy S7, S7 edge, Galaxy S6, S6 edge, S6 edge+, and Galaxy Note 5.
Sponsors: Samsung Electronics (VR app), Foundation Polytechnische Gesellschaft Frankfurt am Main (research project)
Website programming and design: Zum Kuckuck
VR-App programming and design: NMY
Free WiFi in the Schirn and the Städel
February 2015: Starting with the new exhibition year 2015, the Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt and the Städel Museum offer free-of-charge WiFi throughout their premises; visitors of both art institutions will have free access to the Internet as of February 5, 2015. The Schirn and the Städel are the first two venues of this size in Germany, which provide free-of-charge and unlimited WiFi in all their exhibition areas.
New digital education offer Digitorial
September 2014: The Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt, the Städel Museum and the Liebieghaus Skulpturensammlung are launching a completely new digital education format with their digitorial: relying on an innovative form of storytelling, enlightening backgrounds, art-historical and historico-cultural contexts, as well as crucial exhibition contents are made easily accessible to all visitors interested in preparing their tour through the museum on a responsive website.
The Digital Extension of the Städel Museum
The Städel Museum, Germany’s oldest museum foundation, is taking its 200th birthday this year as an occasion for a fundamental redefinition of its diverse educational programme as well as the museum visitor’s experience. Against the background of the increasing digitalization of everyday life, the extension of its educational responsibility into the digital realm is a key building block for the Frankfurt museum.