Museums at Coronavirus Times






As museums around the globe shut down their hallowed halls to protect the health and safety of visitors and staff, many have also risen valiantly to open up new doors. While much of the world waits in self-quarantine, museums leaders are developing and expanding their digital programming to make their collections and other offerings available online. It’s testimony to the incredibly gifted and hard-working museum staff — that they are able, during this exceptional time, to continue carrying out the mission of the institutions they serve.

Connecting Through Art, Online

From the British Museum in London to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam to the MET and the Guggenheim in New York City, thousands of years’ worth of creative output is housed within their collections. Faced with the modern mission of bringing their collections to the people as sources of inspiration, learning, and community connection, these Coronavirus times bring new levels of challenge, but more importantly: new opportunities. Kids and their parents can explore, gaining knowledge about not only art but history as well. Many science museums are also taking their missions online, with virtual exploration of their exhibits. Take a cursor-led virtual walking tour, Google Maps style, of the German Oceanographic Museum, for example, and stroll past glass cases full of ocean critters, even zooming in on tiny shells and crustaceans if you so please.

Many of these online initiatives can be accessed from a central portal, developed by Google’s heretofore little-known Arts & Culture division, available here. And from the home page, you can also explore temples, the great opera houses, national parks in the USA, and more. Try an introspective of Latin American artist Frida Kahlo’s extraordinary wardrobe at Museo Frida Kahlo. Or go museum hopping and try an in-depth exploration of Paul Cezanne’s blues, via a slideshow of curated pieces from multiple collections.

An Unprecedented Opportunity for Impact

For the museum tech community, for whom advancing the cause of digital transformation has always been a priority, now is the time to shine. This is a critical crossroads: providing access to art and museum content has never before meant so much to many. For hard-working folks who normally don’t have time to feed their artistic inclinations, or for busy parents who rarely have time to sit down and explore the digital world with their kids, these online resources are filling a void that social distancing has only begun to open up. As precautionary public health measures increase around the globe, museum tech leaders will be continue to make an even greater impact on the quality of life for those stuck indoors. This is their moment.

For the rest, there is also opportunity for impact. For parents stuck at home with children, these online resources represent a welcome alternative to Netflix, and the chance to explore and learn together — to truly connect with each other in new ways. It’s also a way to connect with others who are doing the same from their own couches and kitchen tables around the world. In essence, it’s a way to share the Covid 19 experience globally from a positive framework, rather than one of fear, panic, and divisiveness.