In The Rijksmuseum’s Digital Archive, Old Masterworks Inspire New Designs

Droog used Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum’s newly digitized collection as the source material for a series of new works.

Amsterdam’s famed Rijksmuseum recently emerged triumphant from a decade-long renovation project. In addition to the extensive on-site overhaul that transformed the 125-year-old institution into an LED-lit, chronologically arranged journey through art history IRL, the reopening also marked the debut of the Rijksstudio, an incredible online resource that allows virtual visitors to explore hi-res versions of a staggering 125,000 works.


In order to highlight the creative potential inherent in this digital treasure trove, the modern-day Dutch masters at Studio Droog combed the archives for inspiration, and, along with the material experts at deJongeKalff, produced a series of new pieces inspired by several jewels in the museum’s newly-digitized permanent collection. Yowza. The result is a fascinating, century-spanning collaboration that mixes form and function, offering both an introduction to the past and a glimpse of the future.

Considering the sheer scale of the catalog, it’s tough to imagine the process of narrowing down the options and committing to a finite selection, but the picks represent an interesting range of eras and mediums: a 17th-century ruffled linen collar becomes a decorative napkin ring; a series of intricate antiquated cutlery comes together in a re-imagined set that includes such “forgotten” tools as the salt scoop and fruit spoon; a floral still-life becomes a temporary tattoo. By far the most ambitious of the set is an elaborate centerpiece that updates Wenzel Jamnitzer’s filigreed 1549 original with mini models–3-D printed, natch–of even more works from the collection. Meta, man.

There’s no doubt that the Google-ization of art is changing the way we experience and interact with museum holdings that were once only available to view in person (just ask Mark Moscovitz). And while making the epic scroll through the world’s most amazing artifacts does, in some ways, reduce it to the amount of attention you may pay to a Pinterest page, there’s something truly remarkable about having these resources at your fingertips.

Check out the Rijksstudio here.