After reading an article about online tours in the New York Times recently, I was inspired to explore the broader implications of #museumfromhome on the cultural sector, so I started doing a little homework to see what leaders across the field are saying about virtual experiences and prophesizing for the future…
In Museum Digital Ideas from 2020, Jim Richardson, Founder of MuseumNext, explores the ways in which closures and capacity restrictions brought on by the pandemic have forced museums to come up with innovative solutions—using existing digital outreach platforms and widely available tech—to stay connected to audiences from afar. Looking at the challenges facing museums in the wake of Covid, he finds a bright spot, deftly observing how this unprecedented moment has provided museums the “opportunity to think outside the box and use digital solutions to keep creativity and engagement afloat.”
Richardson notes that, “In many cases, these initiatives, born out of survival, have changed the way we think about and interact with museums. While we can consider some of the digital pivots to be short-term fixes or interim measures, many represent an acceleration of digital transformations that were already taking place. Others have been more unexpected but no less impactful, diverting the course of museum activities and forcing them to think differently about how they should curate, exhibit, engage and interact in the long-term future.”
The Times article poses the all-important question: will art lovers pay for virtual museum experiences? Citing several case studies, including the Artemisia Gentileschi exhibition at the National Gallery, London, and the Jan van Eyck exhibition at the Fine Arts Museum Ghent, the article unpacks the impact of lost revenue due to forced closure, the ethics of monetizing online content, and highlights a variety of creative solutions for sharing onsite exhibits through virtual portals and programming.
So, I am curious, readers, what is your willingness to participate in virtual programming? Have you done them? If so, what was the experience like for you? Have you produced them? What were your goals and outcomes? What are your institutional metrics for success?