In Development

Disrupt art-historical frameworks and place user experiences at the centre.


The Museum Arnhem is one of the top ten Dutch contemporary art museums. They have been collecting for decades focusing on social themes and have approximately 25,500 artworks/objects today. They present their collection in the present context, from topicalities and in everchanging perspectives – trusting the works of art's ability to bridge current social developments and stories from the past. As a result, the visitors experience the backgrounds and contexts of their own culture, as well as the past and the world of thoughts that existed then.

The Museum Arnhem is temporarily closed because of renovation and expansion. The new building is designed by Benthem Crouwel Architects and will be unique in the Netherlands. SPRIGS is partnering with the Museum Arnhem to use this downtime to create and build “a museum outside the walls”. Our collaboration encourages further interaction in physical and virtual spaces.


Museum Arnhem, Tate Liverpool


Art- and culture lovers, conscious 20s-30s, professional creatives, citizens (wider audience).


From Collection to Connection; a user interface connecting a database of contemporary artworks/objects with visitors preferences, interpretations and associations.


A user-centred multidimensional network of stories unlocks 25.500 artworks beyond art-historical terms – and brings ideas about identity, culture and history to the light.


Which additional stories can be added to digital applications to give an even better experience of art?

This question was our starting point when exploring how to unlock and visualise 25,500 artworks and objects beyond art-historical terms. We also paid attention to bring societal changes like digitalisation and the recognised need to grow 21st-century skills like critical thinking into the audience vision and the cultural field. Therefore, we plan to give the public open access to the totality of the collection, and we will apply Open Source to stay flexible and share our outcome within the field of culture.

The interpretations and experiences of art are different for most individuals, and the majority of people are not governed by or familiar with a composite art-historical framework. To create connections with a wider audience, we aim to disrupt this framework and place the user experience at the centre by involving the visitors from a bottom-up approach.

The purpose of this bottom-up approach is to connect user data to the collection. Applying user data to visualise the different interpretations and experiences that the intrinsic power of art carries for people will add a new layer of storytelling to the Museum Arnhem collection.

In the first versions of From Collection to Connection, the emphasis is on data generated by the Museum Arnhem, where the user flow is measured. In the later versions, the emphasis will be on both the online and offline visitor passively and actively generated data. In all versions, the associative routes of visitors are leading.

This way of storytelling will create greater visibility of the totality of the collection. It will provide a fresh look at art by turning users consideration into data and making it visible – linking new information to the collection that differs from the specialist eye or art-historical perspective.

A network of visitors’ data will provide a good insight into the visitors’ interests and experiences. This insight will enable us to scale up, allowing other settings in the cultural field to use the same method and application.


Outcome stands or falls with the willingness of the public to cooperate and share their associations.

It is crucial for the user interface that we tailor it to the user’s needs. We will apply the user-centred design approach to process these streamlines and work in sub-steps to progress towards a user-friendly outcome in which user input is requested and included in the follow-up steps.

Version 0.0: The Museum Arnhem research how their artworks and objects connect internally and with issues in society. Artworks and objects are re-described and based on these descriptions, are assigned keywords that relate to the Art & Architecture Thesaurus® (AAT). These abstract concepts have been brought together to study and implement various aspects of human thinking and doing, including architecture and the arts in all media and other disciplines. This includes theoretical and critical thoughts, ideologies, beliefs, and social or cultural currents. The purpose of this study is to open-up the collection thematically. The goal is to have re-described 50% of the collection by the end of 2021. This terms-based registration of the collection forms the basis for the online presentation of the collection.

Version 1.0: With the data unlocked in version 0.0, an online experience of the collection is designed and prototyped with the focus on themes in the collection and the term-based recordings done in version 0.0. In this version, information is still passed on from the museum to the visitors. For example, 100 works out the collection have been re-described with the keyword identity, and they are clustered based on this keyword and presented to the visitor. However, some of these works have also been given the keyword gender, meaning that these works can be displayed in other clusters. These works of art are thus connected in some ways, and a multi-dimensional network is created.

Version 2.0: In addition to the automatically generated data, we will organise workshops with focus groups to further ‘load’ and make the frameworks and associations of the museum subordinate to those of the public. Where version 1.0 forms the basis, 2.0 applies a bottom-up approach in which the Museum Arnhem seeks contact with the public. Audiences are involved in this through sessions. During these workshops, possible new associations within the collection are looked at together, then added to the museum’s data. The museum’s already developed public activities are also used to obtain user data.

Version 3.0: Automatically generated data is actively supplemented by visitors without the intervention of a workshop or museum employee. At this point, the visitors are central to the online experience of the collection. It is currently being investigated how to best stimulated and add to this experience. One possibility is, for example, through open-ended questions. When looking at a work of art, a question appears on the screen, for example, ‘What was the first word that came to your mind when you saw this work? The answer is then linked to the artwork, so new connections are constantly created within the collection. There can be groupings made that are visually interconnected utilizing the data analysis performed at the back-end. In this way, the collection is nurtured by the visitor’s experience, and the user experience is visualised by linking user data to the already existing data.

Version 4.0: Several museums face the same challenge regarding online storytelling. The purpose of our planned sub-steps is to generate knowledge and know-how that we can share with others. The software developed from version 1.0 to 3.0 is offered as a White Label – a polished and sustainable product developed in the service of the cultural sector. 

Version 5.0: From Collection to Connection lends itself excellently to combine data from collaborating museums. Through collaborations and the availability of the software as White Label, a network can arise in which museums with contemporary art present their collections together and make them available to generate more impact and meaning to a wider audience.

Version 6.0: When the Museum Arnhem reopens the doors to the public, From Collection to Connection will be presented via a user-centred interactive on-site installation. The installation enables visitors to digitally access the totality of the Museum Arnhem collection, including the pieces from the depot. The installation’s first ideas are currently being developed, but the final one will depend on the software that still needs to be designed in sub-steps.


Using technology as a tool to enhance users’ experience.

We are building an interactive installation that presents artworks and objects in 3D space. The installation will highlight the relation between artworks and users accompanying emotional state.  The artworks are connected through different variables such as subjects, authors, colours, and emotional states. The collection will consist of 20,000 and more art pieces. It will run on browsers and as a stand-alone installation where additional sensors such as ambient light and motion detection will help enhance the user’s experience.

Software architecture: The general architecture of the application consists of the back end, the front end, and the Content Management System. A major point of attention is that the system is scalable and flexible. Hence, integration of future enlargements and developments goes seamlessly, and the white-label distribution in version 4.0 is already taken into account. The back end mainly provides the link between the data warehouse of the application and the database of AdLib, the digital collection. The application’s database schema is set up generically. As a result, all data remains reusable and interchangeable, again important because of possible new import sources related to version 4.0. The front end holds the graphical user environment in which the interaction between visitor and application takes place. Technically, all current operating systems and browsers are considered to reach the widest possible audience. The Content Management System is for administrative purposes used (CMS). This is where the application’s content is managed, and statistics on its use are shown within a dashboard.

All parts of the application are realized entirely with open-source software. This will increase future accessibility and compatibility guaranteed. Open-source software: AdLib: Linking works via a custom plugin that communicates with the manufacturer’s API (Axiell). The requested data is provided by the plugin translated to the structure of the application database. We will use a total of 3 database engines to set up a data warehouse. MariaDB: A relational database in which the data of the works of art are stored in tables. MongoDB: NoSQL database will be used to store log data, keywords, and analytical data. Redis: A database stored in working memory will be used to cache frequently used data. User Interface – The front end is designed using the standard PHP, JavaScript, and CSS programming languages. Content Management System: The CMS is tailor-made based on the Laravel framework. The functionality of the CMS is expanded in each version. From version 3.0, the user-submitted contributions are managed. As of version 4.0, the CMS is provided with personalisation options, allowing other museums to adjust the appearance of the front end.

User Analytics: Separate tracking software is written to collect and analyse user data. This allows the specific interactions of each user within the application. All visitor streams are tracked, and individual user behaviour becomes anonymous stored. This quantitative data is used to measure both the user experience and to optimize the whole system. Version 1.0 will continuously look for opportunities to create quality data through interactive moments, giving the visitor feedback on the application or specific components. The qualitative data are used to map the subjective experience within the user experience bring and interpret. As of version 3.0, this approach is supported by the ability for the user to create his own associations the part. Automated qualitative classification of the submitted proposals is provided via algorithms. The basis for this is the “k-nearest neighbours algorithm” and the “Naive Bayes classifier”. These algorithms categorically and semantically divide the submitted associations to bundle concepts according to their contextual meanings. E.g. the words “dark” and “dark” will be classified as one association. As a result, the submitted data is immediately edited and kept up to date for reuse.

Machine learning: We will apply artificial intelligence via sentiment analysis to better interpret the user’s emotional experience. The language and text of the given associations and the submitted contributions are processed for emotion and systematically identify, extract, quantify and study information. The machine learning model required for this is developed based on the open-source Tensorflow Library.

As project manager of the Museum Arnhem, SPRIGS means to me: Creativity, out of the box thinking, renewal, short lines, clarity, speed, openness, transparency. For the Museum Arnhem they are a visionary in the field of mobile and web development that has rarely been shown in museum land. They make smart digital solutions with simple processes that can become a game changer for museum land. In short, as Museum Arnhem we are happy with SPRIGS as, rightfully so, a digital innovator! Hans van 't IJssel, Projectmanager, Museum Arnhem

The From Collection to Connection project will unlock and visualise the collection digitally over the next two years. The project follows the national Digital Heritage strategy, using open standards and facilities. We are connected to Erfgoed Gelderland and partner at DEN. Project partners understand the importance of collaboration, retrieving expertise from partners and larger peer museums and re-sharing the knowledge gained with smaller peer institutions. Therefore, we are committed to the principles of the National Digital Heritage strategy and its component, the Digital Heritage Network.