The Big Internet Museum - Viral Week

By Tanya Silverman

Photo courtesy of SEO.

The Big Internet Museum is a museum about the internet, that’s only available on the internet. There is no building. Completely free and open to the public, this museum opened its virtual doors in December 2012.


The Big Internet Museum was founded by Joeri Bakker, Dani Polak, and Joep Drummen, who were all co-workers at TBWANEBOKO at the time, an advertising agency in the Netherlands.

This trio came up with the idea while they were sitting in a traffic jam on the way home from a work assignment. As they were talking about pre-loaders (the animated graphs that indicate the progress of a download), they made predictions that pre-loading itself would become obsolete within a few years. The course of their conversation streamed to recalling erstwhile internet concepts, such as ICQ and Alta Vista, and how quickly such things can come and go.

They thought there must be an archive of internet programs, fads, and information available online. Upon Google-searching this presumption, they discovered that there was not.

“We were very surprised it wasn’t there yet. Still are, actually,” Joerri Bakker tells BreakThru Radio. Because this museum concept did not already exist, the three decided to create it themselves.

Visiting the Big Internet Museum

When visiting the world’s first museum completely dedicated to the internet, one can read the daily visiting hours that are posted in its entrance way, or homepage: “Monday 00:00-0:00, Tuesday 00:00-00:00, Wednesday 00:00-00:00, Thursday 00:00,” and so forth.

Past the virtual free entrance and posted schedule of infinite entry hours, the museum’s exhibits are quite easy to explore. With pieces about HTML, Simple Life, and Chuck Norris, the components of the Big Internet Museum were put together to be educational and entertaining, which is reflected through Joep Drummen’s written descriptions that accompany the collection.

“His copy is researched, all the facts are triple-checked, but there’s always a witty comment there about it,” Bakker praises the museum’s informative, yet unpretentious demeanor to describe anything from hacking to tweeting to blogging. For instance, the words about the first-ever webcam notify visitors that its premier photograph was of a regular coffee pot, rather than of a “Swedish bikini team.”

As for archived artifacts, this museum presents the history of the former internet applications that held strong for a few years and then faded. For instance, MSN messenger was active from 1995-2012, but then was ultimately retired to be replaced with Skype. Geocities, a means to create low-fi, simplistic websites, started in 1995, but was shut down by Yahoo! in 2009. Museum visitors can also check in on the whereabouts of things that were once popular and are now currently fading, such as Myspace.

Viral videos is another essential element which was incorporated into the Big Internet Museum. However, because there is such an extensive array of viral videos, the co-founders had to decide on which to feature. Bakker recalls how they filled their wall up with “a million post its” during their initial viral-video brainstorming session. They then filtered through this extensive list by examining how much each video had worked to impact and format the internet as we know it today. Narrowing them down, one of the final decisions in this matter was the infamously irritating “Peanut Butter Jelly Time” video.

“If you look at the video for the banana, it combines an animated .gif video with basically the most annoying song ever.” Past this initial level, there is deeper meaning to “PBJT” being chosen for the museum: “It went viral very fast. This is one of those things that I think shaped and formed a lot of virals that came later.”

The comedic video-game-based viral videos, “Leeroy Jenkins,” and “All Your Base Are Belong to Us” are also among the selected curatorial items. Bakker comments that adding PSY’s “Gangnam Style” was necessary because of its “enormous amount of views.”

Another recent internet trend that was impossible to be ignored by such a museum is feline fanaticism. This has become so incredibly prominent over the World Wide Web that Keyboard Cat, LOLCats,and Nyan Cat are all on display at the Big Internet Museum. Although Bakker undoubtedly acknowledges that domestic cats are a ubiquitous theme of internet entertainment, he considers this overall culture quite “bizarre.”

“I don’t know what it is, but there’s something about cats.” He continues, “The things people do with their cats online… that’s unbelievable to me.”

Open to All: Adding Submissions and Archiving for Future Generations

The Big Internet Museum is meant for everyone.

“It’s open 24/7. You can reach us from anywhere. If you have an internet connection and a computer, or any other device, really, you’re in!” Bakker welcomes. “Like any good idea on the internet, it’s pre-founded. It’s not ours, it’s everybody’s.”

Putting such an idea into action through online means was only natural. “It’s a museum about the internet, so where else should it be?”

Museum patrons are also invited to click on the “submit” option on top of the page if they wish to contribute something to the collection. So far, hundreds of submissions have been posted. Once these are sent in, the public is able to “vote” on the elements they deem appropriate. Anyone is welcome to help out with the curatorial process.

Although it is based in Amsterdam, the Big Internet Museum has been gaining a vast international following that reaches far beyond their Dutch boundaries. Many visitors are from South American countries, along with places like China, Germany, and France. The museum is currently only available in English, which has encouraged people to offer their translation services.

“It’s really cool to see the crowd is embracing the idea,” Bakker says, exhibiting a positive attitude toward what he and his team have contributed. As for future plans, Bakker tells BTR that he is excited about the Big Internet Museum’s upcoming temporary exhibitions and all of the interesting elements they can feature. On a more personal level, he and the other co-founders hope they will have the chance to visit this museum with their grandchildren one day.

Perhaps we will all be able to sit down with future generations and experience a nostalgic reminiscence while we talk about the long-gone days of Facebook, Lycos, or Keyboard Cat.

Until then, Joeri Bakker shares his cordial message with the public: “Visit the museum and keep submitting pieces!”