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Imperial Heritage, Contemporary Art and Digital Technologies – A Talk with Ivana Novoselac of the Albertina Museum in Vienna

Imperial Heritage, Contemporary Art and Digital Technologies – A Talk with Ivana Novoselac of the Albertina Museum in Vienna

VIENNA – In our daily life, we use personalized apps, connect with our friends on Instagram or read the news on Facebook. But how has this development impacted museums and their operations? What is the future of the digital museum? And how do the big museums get ready for this future?

Albertina Building View
The Albertina builds bridges between the historical and the contemporary Vienna. This beautiful building used to be a former private palace of the Habsburgs and is now host to one of the most important permanent collections in Europe. (Picture courtesy of Harald Eisenberger)

The Albertina in the historic centre of Vienna builds a bridge between imperial flair and art – the building used to be a private palace of the Habsburgs and was renovated between 1999 and 2003 – no other than architect Hans Hollein designed the futuristic roof as the museum’s new entrance. The collections are comprised of works from as early as the 15th century. The Batliner Collection as the core of the museum’s permanent exhibits includes around 500 works covering the most fascinating chapters from 130 years of art history, from French Impressionism to the present. The museum’s exhibitions about Albrecht Duerer, Edvard Munch and Van Gogh were attended by record numbers of visitors.

Albertina Imperial Rooms
In addition to the exhibition rooms, you can visit the Habsburg State Rooms from the early 19th century. (Picture courtesy of Georg Molterer)

I spotted Ivana Novoselac, who is in charge of the museum’s social media as well as press and public relations, at the entrance of the museum – her Vichy checks dress paired with the bright red lipstick indicated to me that this would neither be the typical talk about Marketing Management nor a plain introduction to the museum. I felt that this would be a special interview and I was right. The following hour was an interesting insight into Ivana’s job, her interdisciplinary personal background and the strategy of one of the most famous museums in Austria.

How did you end up working for the Albertina Museum?

After high school in Austria, I studied Fashion Design and Dressmaking in Paris. I then went back to Vienna to study Art History and broaden my theoretical background. My studies built a bridge between fashion and art as I focused on the history of costumes in paintings and fashion shows as a medium of performance art. Very soon after starting my studies, I started working for the Albertina Museum as an art educator. Currently, I am in charge of the digital marketing at the museum.

Which social channels does the Albertina Museum use and what are the goals of your campaigns?

The most important social media channels for the museum are Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Regarding video material, it is Youtube but also Vimeo, which has become a dominant channel in the art sector. Even though the Albertina has a Pinterest account, it is smaller than the others.

Albertina Vienna Schiele Exhibition Mario Kiesenhofer 2
The main goal of the Albertina’s social media marketing is not only to bring more people to the museum but also to make it more accessible to a younger audience. (Picture courtesy of Mario Kiesenhofer)

The main goal of our social media strategy is to attract a younger target audience. Therefore, Instagram is an effective channel. Twitter addresses a niche who wishes to get more content. Needless to say, Facebook has become a crucial part of our marketing and an effective tool to announce events and talks.

In general, the Albertina Museum is in the fortunate position that we already do have a lot of visitors and that it is among the most popular museums in Vienna. The majority of our visitors are international and national tourists. Of course, we still aim to bring even more visitors to our house and make the Albertina more accessible.

Paul Delvaux Landschaft mit Laternen - Landscape with Lanterns 1958 © Albertina, Wien. Sammlung Batliner
Paul Delvaux – Landscape with Lanterns is part of the Batliner Collection. Credit: Paul Delvaux | Landscape with Lanterns | 1958 | © Albertina, Vienna. Batliner Collection.

How did the museum start out with social media marketing and what is its current importance in the organization?

Everything started with a simple Facebook page. Social media marketing was subsequently strategically positioned with a strong management backing. The importance of social media is stressed top-down throughout the organization and this is a reason why the Albertina is so successful with its online campaigns.

Albertine Vienna Exhibition Monet to Picasso Water Lily Bond
The Batliner Collection spans across three centuries and includes works by Claude Monet amongst others. Credit: Claude Monet | The Water Lily Pond | 1917-19 | © Albertina, Vienna. Batliner Collection.

The museum applies the same approach to traditional media, such as billboards, and to social media. The social channels are regarded as high-quality ways of publication. If you visit the social pages, you will see artworks, videos and quotes of the weeks in addition to online and offline events. The advantage of social media marketing is definitely that it can be flexibly defined, its success can be tracked easily and the impact-cost-ratio is very high.

How do you plan and orchestrate all the social media channels?

The editorial plan for the social channels depends on the events. There are 2-3 main exhibitions per year which are, of course, promoted via these channels. However, there are also out-of-the-box events to bring further target groups to the museums. One example of such an event is the “Yoga at the Albertina”. Some participants might come for the event and the beautiful location. They might not have thought about visiting us in the first place but might stay after the event and also come back later.

Albertine Vienna Exhibition Monet to Picasso Rainer Mirau 2
According to Ivana Novoselac, a lot of people are hesitant to enter museums because they appear like “sacred” places. You are not allowed to talk. You can just watch. Innovative measures in addition to social media are used to make the museum more accessible. (Picture courtesy of Rainer Mirau)

“I think that very often, museums are regarded like sacred places – you are only supposed to watch. However, art is indeed something that is inextricably linked to our life.”

What we try to do is to use social media trends to our advantage. When we open Instagram, for example, there are so many people who want to stage themselves. Why not use this? If we position ourselves as a lifestyle location and this brings more people to the Albertina, I am happy with it. I want to make art accessible. The most important thing is that that people enjoy themselves and the art at the Albertina.

How does the Albertina Museum collaborate with social influencers?

In general, it is allowed to take pictures without flash at the Albertina. With our own collections, this is not a problem. In certain cases, however, it might not be allowed: when we get loans, we need to get the owners’ approval. However, most of the time, if we explain our reasoning behind, the owners are OK with it. Again, I think that it only is to our advantage if people take pictures of the exhibits and post them online because it increases our audience. For an owner of an artwork it may be beneficial because it may increase the value of the work.

Albertina Vienna Film Stills Exhibition
Exhibitions of the Albertina not only cover paintings and sculptures. The museum is also very well known for its photography collection and exhibitions. (Picture courtesy of Ivana Novoselac)

Regarding our press relations, we apply a two-dimensional approach: we have press conferences in a classic sense on the one hand. On the other, we are aware that the content needed for online publications and influencers differs very much from the traditional media outlets. Therefore, we also have so-called “Social Conferences” at the openings of our major exhibitions where we invite influencers from groups such as “IGers Austria” or “IGers Vienna” and bloggers to our Instawalks to experience the new show exclusively with its curators and organizers. In general, an approach involving lifestyle, arts and culture works really well for us to increase the viral “noise”.

Paul Signac Venedig, die rosa Wolke Ankerplatz bei der Giudecca Frankreich 1909 © Albertina, Wien. Sammlung Batliner
Recently, the Albertina hosted an exhibition about Pointillism. For its social media press work, the museum built bridges between the dots on the paintings and pixels online. Paul Signac – Venice, The Pink Cloud is part of the Batliner Collection. Credit: Paul Signac | Venice, the Pink Cloud | 1909 | © Albertina, Vienna. Batliner Collection.

One example of this two-fold relations approach was during the exhibition about Pointillism: The traditional media wanted more of a art history background on what is Pointillism and how it influenced modern art. The way we interacted with the online influencers was much more visual, the connection of the dots of pointillism with the pixels in the online world was a natural and logical outcome.

How did digital technologies change the way exhibitions are curated?

I do see that classic boundaries in the way we think as curators such as the division between painting, sculpture, graphics, etc. are slowly broken up because of the increased influence of digital developments.

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Albertine Vienna Exhibition Monet to Picasso Rainer Mirau
The Albertina encourages visitors to share their experience on social media. Hashtags are placed in the exhibition rooms. (Picture courtesy of Rainer Mirau)

Nevertheless, our exhibitions still follow a classic approach most of the time. It really depends on the topic. For example, during the “Film Stills” exhibition, we worked together with a start-up to incorporate an innovative approach: our visitors could download an app and when they scanned the photo with their phone, the part of the movie relating to the picture appeared on the app. In this case, the incorporation of digital technologies worked perfectly. However, I think it has to be decided case by case if it is a good fit.

This fit depends on the target group. Our visitor surveys showed us that the need for more digital elements is limited. This may stem from the fact that the majority of visitors are within an older age bracket. Our goal is to incorporate technologies in a way that we address the needs of our younger visitors without discouraging our visitors who are less digitally savvy. American museums are a role model for us regarding these developments.

Albertine Vienna Exhibition Monet to Picasso Rainer Mirau Social Media
The Albertina tries to balance the use of traditional methods and digital technologies. It usually depends on the target group of the exhibition. (Picture courtesy of Rainer Mirau)

Do you think that the more works are accessible online the less visitors will come to the Albertina Museum and therefore, the online database should be limited?

I think that there is no limit on how many pieces of collections or exhibitions are available online. A lot of works are already in big databases such as Google Arts & Culture anyways. I do think that even though people have access to artworks online, they come to the museums to see the original. Maybe they wish to come even more, because they have come across artworks they would not have associated with the Albertina in the first place.

Albertina Vienna Schiele Exhibition Mario Kiesenhofer
According to Ivana Novoselac, an online database or similar methods do not prevent potential visitors from coming to the Albertina. On the contrary, more people may be attracted to see the originals. (Picture courtesy of Mario Kiesenhofer)

How do you assess the opportunities for women in the art world – female artists on the one hand but also female managers in art and culture organizations?

The art world has become much more open towards women. I think a very prominent example is this year’s representation of Brigitte Kovanz at the Austrian Pavilion of the Biennale in Venice. In general, female artists have seen significant support over the past years and I am really glad to see this. They have to be visible to encourage even more women.

“When it comes to working in the art world, I do think that there can be glass ceilings. However, if you look at the big museums in Vienna, a lot of them have more and more women in top management positions.”

I agree with Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook, that we as women sometimes create sticky floors for ourselves preventing us from moving up the career ladder. However, I am lucky to work in a motivating environment where I do see a lot of my female colleagues being really successful, regardless, if they are mothers or not. If you work hard, it will work out – and this applies to women as well as it does to men. Your company will appreciate your  commitment.

Picture courtesy of Ivana Novoselac

Ivana Novoselac studied Fashion Design and Dressmaking in Paris and Art History in Vienna. She has long-standing experience as an art educator. Since 2015, Ivana has been in charge of the social media marketing as well as the press and public relations of the Albertina Museum in Vienna.

Pictures courtesy of Albertina Museum, unless otherwise stated below the respective picture | Website:

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