Having your favorite masterpieces at home


The Netherlands is known for some of the greatest museums. Institutions that have been present for ages but museums are more than ever struggling; with the technological changes it became more and more difficult to get people to visit museums.

Following the trend of more active customers, museums also engaged customers in their new product processes, with the ‘product’ being a new exhibition, a new outline of the museum, or a new collection bought. In her book ‘The Participatory Museum’, Simon (2009) lays down these different types of co-creation with visitors.

This year the Rijksmuseum took another approach in co-creation. With the renovation, the Rijksmuseum decided to digitalize a great part of her collection. With the re-opening of the museum the website the Rijksstudio was set up. The website holds more than 150,000 works of art (masterpieces to be exact!) that can be ‘liked’, zoomed in on but most of all can be downloaded to be used in your own creations. The entire online collection is available in pin-sharp clarity and copyright-free.

The Rijksstudio went into collaboration with Etsy, an online DIY platform where people can buy and sell handcraft and vintage. From stay-at-home moms to student-designers, all people were encouraged to work with the online collection to create handcraft to sell on Etsy. The next step was the introduction of the Rijksstudio Award. With the “Make your own Masterpiece” competition people all over the world were invited to send in a creation based on the online collection. To give people inspiration, five major designers on Etsy were asked to design a piece that was based on the collection. Colors and graphics of famous pieces of art were used to design lingerie, a chiffon kimono, wall plates and more.

You may wonder why the Rijksmuseum is doing all this. Why would people still go visit the museum when all the great pieces are just there on your computer screen and why would you let other people use the art to make money?

From the perspective of co-creation the idea behind the Rijksstudio is brilliant though. Value is created for the museum itself and for the public. Rijksstudio has added value to a creative DIY industry all around the world; all those creative people now have a ton on great work and inspiration available. The other way around, public creates value for the collection of the museum. The public has become product designers, as Nambisan and Nambisan (2008) identified as one of the roles that customers take on in value co-creation. It is the public’s creativity that is engaged in the firm’s value-creating process. The top ten nominees of the competition are displayed in the museum (from April 17th on, so go and see!) and are planned to be sold in the museum-shop as well. The idea behind the competition as well is the fact that it creates a needed incentive for people to participate in the process of co-creation.

The concept of the Rijksstudio is a great example for other museums to improve their strategy on value co-creation. It will be interesting to see other museums picking up their possibilities.

 S. Nambisan & P. Nambisan (2008). How to Profit From a Better ‘Virtual Customer Environment’. MIT Sloan Management Review 49 (3).

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