Building a Museum Without Walls

Creating a lending library of artwork and artifacts.

Aug 10, 2022


Art, Changemakers
Building a Museum Without Walls | Creating a lending library of artwork and artifacts.

Museums like the Smithsonian and the MET do more than just showcase works of art or history, they preserve culture. It is the curators of  museums that get to decide what is important enough to be purchased and displayed, according to TechCrunch. But what if these decisions were made by a group of ordinary people?

That’s the premise behind Arkive, a new museum being built without a physical home or walls that is being curated and funded via the internet. While the curation is virtual, the collection consists of real artifacts and art.

“Arkive is an entirely new down-up model where everyday people are part of curating the collection and defining an item’s artistic historical relevance, and place in culture,” the company’s founder and CEO, Tom McLeod told TechCrunch. “When we set out, we asked, ‘What if the Smithsonian was owned and curated by the internet?’ and that’s what led us to launch Arkive.”

Arkive’s very real collection will be loaned to museums and cultural institutions that do have walls. This will allow the public to view pieces that might have ended up in private collections instead.

Membership in Arkive
The members come from all around the world and number about 200 with a waiting list of 800, reported Fast Company. The members vote on what pieces are acquired. At this point, 50 new members are added per month with the lofty goal of obtaining 10,000 by the end of 2023.

All prospective members fill out an application that asks about their occupation as well as their interests and hobbies. According to McLeod, the members include museum curators, art gallery buyers, and people who are collectors of rare books.

The members are able to communicate with each other using Discord and they cast their votes via Ethereum wallets.

The Collection
The first acquisition was a historic ENIAC; the first programmable digital computer that dates to the 1940s. “You would have none of this if you didn’t have the first computer,” McLeod told Fast Company.

The next acquisition was a 1985 art print by artist Lynn Hershman Leeson called “Seduction” that depicts a woman whose head was replaced by a TV. It represents the effect of technology on art and is part of the current theme of “When Technology Was a Game-Changer”

Both of these pieces will tour in a sponsored exhibition and then will be housed at museums as long-term loans. Not having a brick-and-mortar location saves storage fees and allows Arkive more flexibility in choosing acquisitions than a conventional museums.

Another big plus is that the startup plans to hold unto all of its acquisitions and not sell any of them. “We’d like to call this a permanent collection,” McLeod said. This may very well be the future of museums.

These Cats Take Care of This Iconic Museum’s Art!
This New Museum Lets Visitors Explore History Through Food
9 Famous Museums Offer Digital Tours You Can Take From Home

Bonnie has dedicated her life to promoting social justice. She loves to write about empowering women, helping children, educational innovations, and advocating for the environment & sustainability.