Project geselecteerd om te pitchen tijdens Kom je ook? 7 Jon Stam

An Imaginary Museum

sharing digital artifacts in physical space

There is no doubt that the memory function of the museum has been superseded by the electronic archive. Today, networked technology allows us to access information anywhere and at anytime, but a meaningful exhibition-format for this information is far from commonplace. With my Imaginary Museum project, I take the stance that in our increasingly digital, and mobile society, it is imperative we consider the ways in which ascribe meaning to our important virtual ‘things’. Therefore this project experiments with new ways to collect, as well as experience and share digital content in physical space.


This Imaginary Museum project consists primarily of three parts: 1) a web-platform that enables anyone to upload or link digital content under a given category, which then produces a print-ready index card with title, category, contributor, and 2d barcode of the linked content; 2) a card catalogue cabinet with integrated network printer, which automatically prints each contribution to be filed in the cabinet drawers; 3) a digitally hacked View-Master with integrated barcode reader and micro-LCD screens, which which triggers content to view when each index card is inserted in the viewing device.

Contributors to the Imaginary Museum can donate interesting and meaningful digital content to the collection by uploading or linking media through a website. The website will generate a coded link (barcode) for each contribution, which will be made physical in the form of an index card by a printer integrated in the collection cabinet. The collection can be curated through the arrangement of the index cards in the drawers of the cabinet, based the public contributions and the current topics being explored by the institution where the Imaginary Museum is housed.

Visitors to the Imaginary Museum can engage with the card catalogue in a physical search based on their own interests and curiosity. By choosing a card and inserting it in the viewer the linked media will begin to play on two small LCD screens inside the viewing device. The visitor can look inside the viewing device to intimately consult virtual imagery, and listen to its audio through external speakers.


The intrinsically linked cabinet and web-platform combine the experiential and physical power of classical systems with the infinitely expanding power of the network. The web-platform stimulates online and active participation to share digital culture. This makes it possible for an individual to contribute things they value within the context and motivation of the participating institution (where the collection cabinet is housed).


The collection cabinet offers offline, but also active physical participation, rooted in the context and motivation of both individual and the institution. The materiality of the cabinet (referenced on the library card catalogue) aims to enhance the experience of browsing content, going beyond the two-dimensional screen, as well as giving a more poetic form then current media archives. The use of printed cards to both index and trigger digital content make the expansion of the collection easy and no more costly the paper and ink that is used to create them.


The viewing device plays with the boundaries and qualities of material and e-culture, as well with the dynamics of the public and private space. The viewing device augments the virtual image through carefully designed optics, stereoscopy, illumination, and viewing distance, giving a textured effect not unlike film. The form and materiality of the viewer (referenced on the View-Master stereoscopic viewer) aims to take the aesthetic experience to higher level, going beyond the ‘tech’ aesthetics of more commercial head mounted displays, as well as giving a more personal experience then interfacing through a smartphone. The private and intimate viewing space is coupled with the a public presentation of content's audio, which aims to arouse the passer-by's curiosity, as well as stimulate the user to share their visual experience with others.


Imaginary Museum viewer 1 (prototype) - Jon Stam

An Imaginary Museum is an ambitious and multi-layered project. It aims to explore new mediums/interfaces to experience digital artifacts, as well as enable new archival relations between new and old, still and moving, public and private, digital and physical information. It is my hope that this project can find its place in multiple cultural institutions in order to stimulate a dialogue between material culture and e-culture, between an institution and its public, and also stimulate a dialogue between institutions and between publics.

museum staff, content creators, online curators, interested public, museum visitors

This project engages a new audience, stimulates new types of partnerships, opens a new distribution mechanism, and stimulates not only a new way of working, but also a new way of experiencing the digital and user-generated media that has redefined our culture. Moreover, this project offers an system that references a historical past, utilizes technologies of the present, but also leaves possibilities open for how it can be used to contextualize and display e-culture in the future.

For the most part, institutions which deal with material culture use social media as a tool to strengthen their presence within virtual networks. This projects proposes not to bring the museum to the virtual world, but bring the virtual world to the museum. This project can offer space and context to the hybrid participatory process that are part of creating any exhibition. Beyond giving transparency to what is on view and what is not, it also also encourages a continuing discourse through direct and active public participation via web2.0.