Goal of the project:

The Rijksstudio is about enabling every citizen to create their own masterpiece based on the Rijksmuseum's extensive collection. Peter Gorgels, Internet manager at the Rijksmuseum, states that the museum sees the digital disclosure of the artworks as their public duty, emphasizing that the collection belongs in a way to the public, not the museum. Through the Rijksstudio the museum also aims to find new ambassadors for the institution.


Description of project:

The Rijksmuseum used the recent ten year reconstruction period of the building to digitize a very large amount of their objects, many in high resolution quality. Six months before the opening of the building, the museum opened online with their Rijksstudio. About 500.000 images of the collection can be found here, 215.000 of which are in high-resolution quality. The Rijksstudio allows people to download these images and use them to their own liking. Via Creative Commons licensing each image that is no longer under copyright law, is now available as part of the public domain and can be used for all purposes, including commercial exploitation of the works.

In the Rijksstudio platform users can create their own boards of images they love, 'like' other people’s boards and order prints of artworks or details of artworks. Each year the Rijksmuseum invites young artists and designers to share their own appropriation of the collection. A jury selects the best design, which wins the Rijksstudio Award and a monetary reward.


At the launch of the Rijksstudio, Taco Dibbits (Head of collections) said: “At the Rijksmuseum we believe in the strength of images, and the museum is all about images. We would like to bring those as much as possible into the living rooms of all people around the world, into the personal space. And we think that the Internet is the ideal way to achieve that.”

Since the launch of the Rijksstudio 30 October 2012, 225.000 website visitors registered for a Rijksstudio account and are thus able to re-appropriate the collection and create something new. This is circa 5% of people of the millions of ‘passive’ visitors that enjoy the online collection up close. Creators (the non-passive visitors) are important according to Gorgels, because they give new meaning to the collection in the works they make. Dibbits: “It’s the aim of the Rijksstudio to invite the public to start to work with the artworks, to do something with them. Because I think that by making something with the images, and I believe everyone is a maker, you remember them.”

First hand experiences:

Dibbits points out that the way in which the Rijksmuseum is using its digitized collection is unique in a few different ways. First, the images are in high resolution, allowing viewers to zoom in on tiny details of each artwork and to discover new elements. Next, people are invited to modify the works.

Dibbits says: “Many museums have databases with images, and these databases are only growing. But the question is how do you communicate these images? And how do you make people remember them, because we are already confronted with some many images each day. Rijksstudio, where you can play with the images yourself, will make you remember them.”

Dibbits and Gorgels do not fear losing museum visitors to their own online platform. It is more likely that people become ambassadors to the museum because of the Rijksstudio. Gorgels says: “For us digital tools are just tools that will help us reach a larger audience and allow them to be creative and connect to the collection.” Dibbits cites Walter Benjamin, pointing at the unique aura an original artwork has, which can not be replaced by reproductions. There is an emotional quality to such an experience that is unique to seeing ‘the real thing’.

However, realizing that a visit to the real objects in Amsterdam is not possible for everyone, the museum aims to share as much of the collection as possible. Dibbits: “That is our main aim, that as many people as possible are able to enjoy the collection.”


Why is it a best practice:

Of course, the Rijksstudio project isn’t co-creation in its purest form; it has been developed by museum staff and there is little interaction between users and the museum. Nevertheless, this case of the Rijksstudio provides inspiration and best practice for a number of reasons:

  • Sharing the historical collection in the public domain, without restrictions towards commercial or other exploitation, acknowledges the important public function a museum has towards audiences, in terms of sharing aesthetics of art, historical awareness and creating a sense of citizenship and belonging within a Dutch context.
  • The Rijksmuseum allows web-visitors to re-use, re-purpose and appropriate any artwork they like. For them, everyone is a maker. Collection is used to foster creativity, stimulate maker skills and share personal views. It becomes more than a series of static images, it actively invites people to create personal meaning through/with/about art.

Description of organization:

The Rijksmuseum is the museum of the Netherlands. In 2013, an entirely renovated Rijksmuseum opened its doors to the public. People are greeted by a stunning building, amazing interior design, wonderful exhibitions, lively events, and many fine amenities for young and old. The Rijksmuseum links individuals with art and history. At the Rijksmuseum, art and history take on new meaning for a broad-based, contemporary national and international audience. As a national institute, the Rijksmuseum offers a representative overview of Dutch art and history from the Middle Ages onwards, and of major aspects of European and Asian art.




  • Interview with Taco Dibbits for the web series 10 Minutes with..., accessed on
    October 22nd 2015 via: https://youtu.be/-DYFpKIJ1b4
  • Panel session with Peter Gorgels on the use of new digital technologies in co- creation, during expert meeting ‘Hacking Heritage: the Audience, in Amsterdam on October 5th 2015.

Fabrique, Q42