1. Research Mission
The Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna discharges its research mission according to the stipulations laid down in the 2002 Law on Federal Museums in Austria (Bundesmuseen-Gesetz): our overall aims are preserving, enlarging, studying, displaying and administering our holdings. The fact that our holdings are the former imperial collections, and the seminal art-historical, cultural and cultural-policy role of the Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna today also informs its purpose and function (Museum Ordinance 2006, §2(1)).
In future, the main focus of our research activity will be on the museum’s societal relevance. The holdings will be researched and protected, and made accessible to the public.
2. Focal Points and Operational-Research Perspective
Reflecting its established academic tradition, the Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna undertakes art-historical and archaeological-cultural research, frequently and successfully supported by third-party funding. The main focus is on researching our holdings, with regard to both the history of the collection and creating visual connections for the installation of galleries and temporary exhibitions. Directly linked with this is a comprehensive dissemination driven through publications, digital media (museum website, online databanks, e-publishing etc.), symposia, guided tours, and communicating our research results.
Another focal point of research at the Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna is the scientific-technical analyses of individual artworks. The emphasis is both on the comprehensive analysis and documentation of our holdings, and on their preservation, restoration and technological study. In addition, the museum actively participates in international developments of museum-related areas of research such as, for example, questions regarding preventive-conservation aspects of storing and/or displaying artworks, or the introduction of new conservation methods and materials.
Among leading international research institutions the museum is positioning itself by contextualising its research in connection and coordination with Austrian and international universities, non-university related research institutes, libraries and museums, thus helping to shape and determine relevant areas of research, creating synergies and optimizing public awareness of its achievements.
Present budgetary restraints, however, make enlarging the collections difficult, but this remains an important desideratum.
3. Reasons for the Evaluation
We believe that in order to devise a comprehensive strategy for realizing our research aims it is important that independent international evaluators examine and determine the current state and the focus of our research to accomplish an objective status quo. They have looked at a seven-year period (2009-2015). The results on the visibility of our research and possible weaknesses and untapped potentials will be analysed and will result in concrete strategic measures.
Such stocktaking strengthens future research activity in a museum context, establishing it even more firmly as a vital element of museum‘s duties and responsibilities. We hope that a more efficient use of existing parameters in the area of research will lead to very good or even excellent results. We also plan to explore options regarding national collaborations on exhibition schedules and infrastructure.
The recently published “White Book” on the reorganisation of Austrian museums recommends the regular evaluation of scientific agendas; as one of the leading research institutions, the Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna has created a precedent.
The recommendations listed in the evaluation report will be implemented – unless they are already being implemented – and will inform the next steps in the evolution of the fields of research undertaken at the Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna. As a first reaction to the results of the evaluation we have set up an in-house research council, i.e. a body that focuses on research. Developing a research strategy and ascertaining a research budget will form the basis of future research activities.
The Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna is committed to viewing evaluation as a continual process. Maintaining the established timeframe of seven years, we suggest that the next evaluation of research activities (2016-2022) should commence in early 2023. This, our first external evaluation process revealed some problems with a 1:1 application of the evaluation criteria used for universities to museum research, and these experiences will be taken into consideration when conducting the next evaluation in order to increase quality.
The ultimate objective for the advancement of the Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna is drafting a research strategy based on the history of the artefacts and the collection and focused on dissemination. We plan to continue to develop the digitalisation of our holdings in the form of an online-catalogue raisonné, which will go beyond databanks and e-publishing to offer a “digital visit” to the museum. Envisaging the museum as a virtual space, i.e. incorporating all its interconnections and providing comprehensive tagging of artefacts and connections, represents the perfect implementation of the panel’s suggestions on digitisation. Communication and collaboration between our different collections and departments will be improved, by, among other things, the institutionalisation of the relevant committees and communication interfaces, much like the “research seminar” suggested by the panel.
In order to keep up with a fast-evolving international research environment in a way that reflects the standing of the Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna we urgently need to improve and update our infrastructure. This concerns available office space, the acquisition and use of the kind of state-of-the-art research equipment found at comparable institutions, and, most importantly, the need to increase scientific and curatorial personnel in our “seriously understaffed” research departments. In the light of our difficult budgetary situation we must develop a sustainable solution as soon as possible.
In connection with strategy development we plan to instigate a discussion on the unique characteristics/selling points of the Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna, and to entrench the museum’s awareness of research in the on-going discussion of our mission statement.
Generally speaking, the positive results of the evaluation more or less reflect our own self-evaluation, and underline the fact that the Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna discharges its mandated research duties. At the same time, the report functions as a catalyst for a continuous (strategic) sharpening of research agendas at all our institutions; in 2018 we plan to analyse research activities at our other two museums, the Theatre Museum (TM) and the Weltmuseum Wien (WMW).