Digitalisation, Corona back

Kolja Kohlhoff: Born out of necessity, designed for the future

Kolja Kohlhoff: Born out of necessity, designed for the future
Photo: @ Daniel Müller

For weeks everything was closed: the museums, theaters, cinemas and concert halls, the opera houses and design studios, bars, clubs and galleries. Now museums and galleries are open again. In part 3 of our series "The New Virtual Reality" we introduce this time Kolja Kohlhoff, an independent mediator of art and culture from Berlin: Kolja Kohlhoff does Instagram tours in the Berlinische Galerie. Can this be a future after Corona?

Text Boris Messing


The gates of most museums are still closed, but the glamour of the works of art is not. Although people cannot admire them directly, many museums around the world have created a digital offering that allows them to continue enjoying them. The ideas range from special apps and podcasts that illuminate individual works of art to YouTube explanatory videos by art experts and curators. A museum like the Berlinische Galerie is also involved, offering its audience Instagram tours and even expanding its sphere of influence.

Kolja Kohlhoff is a self-employed mediator of art and culture and has been in business for decades. For many years she has been working for the Museumsdienst Berlin as a consultant in the field of education and mediation, organizing museum tours with school classes, and collaborating with Freie Universität as well. Out of necessity, she has now made three Instagram tours for the Berlinische Galerie - alone on a wide corridor. Up to 130 people followed the tours through the empty museum on Instagram. They did not have to pay for them. "We received comments from London, Krasnoyarsk, Vienna, Zagreb, and New York," Kohlhoff says enthusiastically. The audience was more colorful than usual, and the broad interest, even from very distant countries, surprised them. "Despite the impossibility of direct exchange, I see the reach through Instagram as an opportunity," concludes Kohlhoff. Nonetheless, Instagram cannot replace face-to-face tours, she says. The setup and the guided tours were unspectacular: after testing the light and sound, a colleague simply filmed them on her cell phone and transmitted everything live to Instagram. Kohlhoff walked through the museum, stopped in front of this or that work of art and explained. It's as simple as that. Since no direct contact to the audience was possible, she paid special attention to meaningful gestures and facial expressions. After 24 hours, the tour was deleted from the Instagram Channel of the Berlinische Galerie - it was to remain a unique experience, just like a normal tour.

What's happening there? Are these new Corona working models? According to a recent study by the "Network European Museum Organisations" (NEMO) with almost 1000, mostly European, museums, four out of five museums have at least expanded their digital offer because of Corona. The more financial resources were available, the more was also invested in the digital area - which was particularly noticeable in higher visitor numbers online. The study by NEMO also clearly shows that investing in the digitalization of museums leads to a larger audience - at the moment still online, of course, because very many of the museums participating in the study were closed by Corona in recent weeks. The question is, however, whether this is not also reflected in the number of visitors to the site, now and in the future, because many museums are open again on a regular basis. After all, the visitors continue to use the digital offer, especially popular are the use of social media such as Facebook and Instagram as well as video and films that are shown on the museums' homepages. Is this a market that can survive in the future? According to NEMO, the majority of museums are keeping their permanent staff during the crisis, while independent mediators like Kolja Kohlhoff are now without a job. On the other hand, around 30 percent of the museums have reorganized their teams in order to expand and maintain their digital offerings. Instagram tours like the one Kohlhoff gave at the Berlinische Galerie are part of this. Wouldn't it be possible and feasible in the future to maintain such digital offerings even after the crisis?

Besides museum tours, Kohlhoff also holds seminars and workshops in the field of art and culture. With Corona, all these assignments have been cancelled, so the Instagram tours are a win-win situation for everyone - because she earned money and the museum fulfilled its educational mission. Kohlhoff is of course privileged in this respect, but things look less rosy for the other nearly 200 solo self-employed lecturers of the Museumsdienst Berlin. Their already precarious work situation is now even more precarious, some of them may have to apply for basic social security or be financed by their partner. All the same, the Instagram tours could shed some light on the situation and remain part of the museum's work after the crisis - not only as a supplement on the net, but as a future source of income.


Category: New Player


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