Project: Imperial War Museum

As part of the 2014 centenary commemorations of the Great War, the IWM is partnering with Historypin to invite the public to help curate the content in its First World War paintings collection. Using specially developed crowdsourcing tools, the public will be able to view artworks, locate them on a map, add contextual information and their emotional responses and contribute to online discussion. Public and curatorial voices will be given a platform on the IWM website and in an online exhibition on Google Cultural Institute.

Technology Partner
Research Partner
University of Edinburgh
Museums Data & archives User generated content
Grant Awarded
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Download the project report from Imperial War Museums, Historypin and the University of Edinburgh.
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Research Report Insights

Project Name

Imperial War Museum

What they did

The project invited the public to enrich artworks from IWMs’ First World War art collection with additional contextual, technical and historical detail. IWM asked questions about particular artworks on social media, through crowdsourcing tools on and at live collaborative events with groups of experts and enthusiasts.

The project received 8,000 visits to the project on Historypin (40% of which were returning) who stayed for an average of 4 minutes. Users solved 220 mysteries and made 383 comments, indicating a dedicated response from a proportion of online users. Participant enjoyment of the live events was an average of 4.6 out of 5 and 96% said they would attend a similar event.


Project Outcomes

The project outcomes were:

– 220 artworks enriched with structured meta-data such as location, date, Street View or keyword)
– A workflow and a piece of software for structured data to flow from Historypin into the IWM’s middleware
– A crowdsourcing tool allowing users to continue to enrich IWM’s artworks, and which can be used by other cultural organisations with their collections.
– Deeper engagement with IWM’s collection from 103 live event participants and participants who solved mysteries online
– The 9 cultural organisations who partnered on the delivery of the live events are interested in running similar activities with their collections
– Guidance for cultural organisations on how to run live engagement events with their collections


Research findings

Reflecting on audience engagement

Crowdsourcing can deepen the social engagement of audiences that already have an interest in the collection in question, however it struggles to increase the initial breadth of engagement.


Interview at Creative Economy Showcase 2014

Carolyn Royston and Dr Siân Bayne talk to the AHRC at their Creative Economy showcase event.

Decision Points

Reviewing the effectiveness of our social media strategy

Our project is about opening up IWM’s art collection to the public and inviting them to help enrich the collection with locations, dates and other contextual information, or personal /…

Decision Points

Engaging more partners

As part of the HistoryPin team working to look through the Imperial War Museums’ collections of artworks and thinking up ways in which the collection can be enriched is fascinating….

Research findings

Making inter-disciplinarity work

As a researcher and educator and something of an outsider to the museums community I have found this project to be really intriguing, and a source of interesting stimulus.  There…

Tools & methods

Creative Brief Template

We used a Creative Brief template to gather information before our creative team started designing the user interface for the website for our project. The Creative Brief consisted of a…

Decision Points

Choosing the themes which will form the basis for live events

Some of the chosen themes came about because of the preponderance of a type of painting in the collection, whilst others were chosen because of their popularity across social media platforms.

Tools & methods

Basecamp for project management & communication

We use the online project management tool Basecamp After trying to use email as a primary communication tool on this project – a decision was made to use a more…

Decision Points

Giving the public agency

Central to this project is the strategic decision to allow the public to work with, comment on and tag the paintings in our collections in the way in which they…

General insights

Release core archive assets early

The Imperial War Museum took part in the pilot round for the Digital R&D Fund for the Arts with a project called Social Interpretation. During that project IWM were unable…