Case study: James Ensor - An Online Museum

(Deze blogpost is ook beschikbaar in het Nederlands op de Pure Sign website.)

On February 25th, the Flemish Art Collection (Vlaamse Kunstcollectie) launched a virtual museum about the Belgian artist and painter James Ensor on This website was built using popular open source technology such as Drupal, CollectiveAccess and Apache Solr.

The implementation of the collection management backend system and public website was done by Pure Sign in collaboration with Koba.

The Flemish Art Collection is a structural partnership between 3 museums in Flanders: KMSK (Antwerp), Groeningemuseum (Bruges) and the MSK (Ghent). The launched website about James Ensor is the first in a series of websites planned by the Flemish Art Collection, to promote Flemish artists internationally.

James Ensor website

Collection management

For the implementation of the collection management software that powers the website, CollectiveAccess was chosen. CollectiveAccess is open source webbased software for managing catalogues, collections and archives. All data and images for the artworks of James Ensor have been exported from the variety of software packages currently used by the different museums, and subsequently imported into a central CollectiveAccess repository.

James Ensor CollectiveAccess installation

For the public representation of the works, the open source CMS Drupal was chosen for building the website. To connect both systems, Drupal modules were written to fetch the data from CollectiveAccess through SOAP webservices, and integrate that data into Drupal nodes. Part of this integration functionality is already made available as a module on Meanwhile we are working hard to expand the functionality and possibilities of this integration module, as well as making it more user friendly towards non-technical users.

Collection on the website

Website visitors kan explore the work of James Ensor through the "Collection" menu item, and this in various ways. The search functionality was built using the open source search software Apache Solr. This powerful search engine technology integrates very well with Drupal through the ApacheSolr Drupal module and related modules.

By using the Faceted search features of Apache Solr it is possible to narrow down on the search results by museum or keyword. It's also possible to sort the results.

Apart from the search functionality it's also possible to discover the work of Ensor through the thematic collection presentations. The visitor can select one of the 10 available themes. This gives the user an overview of the most important pieces and more information on the importance of this theme on Ensor's work.

A third way to explore the work of the painter from Ostend is through the selection of Ensor admirers. A couple of prominent Ensor admirers created a selection of their preferred works, including more information on their choice.

Browsing the James Ensor collection


Besides showcasing the paintings of this great artist, the website also provides interactivity to the visitor: they can create and save their own personal collection of preferred artworks. Apart from that the visitor to the website can also share his or her favorite piece through the best-known social networks, such as Twitter and Facebook.

Drupal modules

Below is a list of some of the most important Drupal modules or module groups that were necessary to create this website:

  • Views
  • CCK
  • Filefield / Imagefield / Imagecache
  • CollectiveAccess integration modules
  • Display Suite
  • Apache Solr
  • Internationalization
  • Flag
  • Content profile
  • Nodequeue
  • Service Links
  • Quicktabs
  • Besides those, a lot of other useful modules were installed to provide supporting functionality.


    The launch of this website has been covered extensively in the (Belgian) media and newspapers:

    More info

    For more information about this project you can contact Sven Decabooter or leave a comment below.


Is CollectiveAccess free to view for the public or we need to sign up?

This particular installation is not publicly accessible.
But you could install your own CollectiveAccess installation if you wanted to, by downloading it from

I was wondering if you could give me a quick walkthrough on how to get this:

primarily how and where it is calling the image and information, and which module is displaying it?

I've already installed your module and have the instance linked up to my site, just not sure where to go from here?


You can see the collective access site so far at but i'm butting my head up against the limits of pawtucket...


I can't access your site at, so I don't know whether you are using Drupal or Pawtucket as the front end. The James Ensor website doesn't yet use the and modules you are presumably talking about, but if you would you those, you could map the fields from CollectiveAccess to Drupal node fields, and that should give you a similar output.

Hello. I'm sorry for asking that kind of a question, but could explain how to map the fields from CollectiveAccess to Drupal node fields. I'm new to this area and Drupal is not my usual sphere of work and leisure. Thnx.

You could check the documentation over at
For specific questions, you can create a support ticket in the issue queue:

I like virtual museums and James Ensor thanks for the info :)

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