Research Project: Training the Archive

Ludwig Forum Aachen, HMKV at the Dortmunder U and others

The three year research project, funded by the Digital Culture Programme of the Kulturstiftung des Bundes (German Federal Cultural Foundation), in cooperation with the Ludwig Forum Aachen, is completed.

Visual Archives and Artificial Intelligence
Training the Archive (2020–2023) explored the possibilities and risks of AI in relation to the automated structuring of museum collection data to support curatorial practice and artistic production. The HMKV Hartware MedienKunstVerein, Dortmund, cooperated with the Ludwig Forum für Internationale Kunst Aachen and the Visual Computing Institute at RWTH Aachen University.

The term 'artificial intelligence' is addressed from a critical perspective in Training the Archive. It was debated whether the term 'intelligence' or 'cognition' is appropriate at all. Which terms could possibly be used in its place? For the intended project, for example, 'pattern recognition' is a more neutral term. This repositions the field of investigation of curating and artistic practice with 'artificial intelligence'. It no longer poses itself as a question of imagined intelligence, but as an examination of pattern recognition.

The aim of Training the Archive was the research-based creation of a software that enables new access to digitised image collections. »The Curator‘s Machine« is a tool that assists curators by utilizing either OpenAI’s CLIP model or the OpenCLIP model and provides an AI-guided search.

Discourse, mediation and research
Another main focus of the research project was the theoretical and discursive reflection of so-called 'artificial intelligence' in the format of Working Papers. A series of video interviews with artists and curators to collect empirical information, which was directly used in the development of the software prototype, and to focus on the public perception of artistic and curatorial projects with 'artificial intelligence', accompanied the discourse.

The bilingual final publication “Training the Archive” summarizes the discourse during the research process. It consists of transcripts of interviews conducted with experts, a collection of materials, and texts written especially for the volume. Published in January 2024 with Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther und Franz König, Cologne (ISBN: 978-3-7533-0566-0), edited by: Inke Arns, Eva Birkenstock, Dominik Bönisch and Francis Hunger.


Funded by:

Digital Culture Programme of the Kulturstiftung des Bundes (German Federal Cultural Foundation)


Funded by:

the Beauftragte der Bundesregierung für Kultur und Medien (Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media).


Francis Hunger
Artistic-scientific Assistant "Training the Archive"



Everything about the project can be found on the blog:

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