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Author Archive for Dana Andrew

IMD Think Piece by Wang Bin, Director of the Tang West Market Museum, China

Culture is great because of its diversity.  The protection and inheritance of diversified culture is one of the most important missions of the museum.  Museums should incorporate the concept of pluralism and inclusion into their business and practice, and further enhance mutual learning and inclusion in the world through continuous innovation, exhibitions and educational activities to interpret and display the benefits of diversified culture.  During the current global pandemic, many museums around the world, although passively ‘closed’, may actively ‘open the window’, providing visitors with exhibitions and services through the internet and new media.

The Tang West Market Museum has explored more online activities, beyond our focus on the Silk Road culture exchange.  Needless to say, the ordeal and trials of the pandemic are changing people’s lifestyle and thinking.  Throughout this crisis, museum professionals need to have a deep understanding of our mission and responsibilities, and work actively to promote mutual respect and harmonious coexistence among different civilizations.

IMD Think Piece by Guo Meixia, Deputy Director, Publicity and Education Department, The Palace Museum, Beijing, China

Almost all museums worldwide have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic, and the Palace Museum is no exception.  The disruption caused by the pandemic has prompted immediate responses ranging from free online courses to nationwide live broadcasts at the Palace Museum, which was closed from 24 January to 30 April 2020. 

Amid the outbreak, the museum offered online courses for children, who had to remain housebound and take courses over mobile platforms.  Due to the harsh quarantine measures, online courses became a valuable mode of learning.  The courses gained popularity because of their educational yet entertaining content, having been designed after assessing children’s learning habits and interests.  Besides this, the museum did three live broadcasts, providing a new means of access for visitors, on 5 and 6 April after being closed for over 70 days.  It was greatly welcomed by the public, as audiences could appreciate the magnificent palatial architecture whilst obtaining knowledge from interpreters.  The broadcasts had about 430 million views and 240 million shares and comments.

As the pandemic now is under control in China, the museum has been partially reopened to the public, with temporary closures of certain areas and limited visitor capacity.  For the closed areas, the museum has made virtual access available for visitors by means of VR tours, online exhibitions and mobile apps.  There is no doubt that museums will open more widely to the public through these new means of communication.

IMD Think Piece by Dr. Nu Mra Zan, Museum Consultant, Ministry of Religious Affairs and Culture, Myanmar

Following this pandemic, most museums will have to face challenges on many economic, political and social issues. Among them, the most serious may be budget constraints for government-funded museums and the increased difficulty of fundraising for private museums.

The second-biggest challenge may be the inevitable political and social changes in the ways that decisions are made about museums in most countries.  To overcome these challenges, we, museum professionals, should consider the most possible and reasonable methods.  For the monetary affair, government museums should not rely on government budgets alone.  Perhaps, they should collaborate with private museums to broaden their fundraising methods, whilst, in turn, sharing the benefits of governmental support. Such collaboration might demonstrate the equality of both kinds of museums

To address social and political problems, museums around the world need to communicate with each other; to discuss with openness and trust; to search for the solutions together.  Whilst museum professionals may differ in origins, race, religion and gender, all of them can consider together issues of diversity, according to their different backgrounds, histories, locations, ethnicities and other factors.  This will foster the diversity and inclusivity of museums around the world.

Within the limited area of museums, museum professionals should try to connect more with diverse people or communities of different races, religions and genders in the search for resolution of political, social and monetary issues, through special exhibitions, museum talks, digital conferencing and edutainment programmes for diversity, inclusion and equality.

IMD Think Piece by Jayanta Sengupta, Secretary and Curator, Victoria Memorial Hall, Kolkata, India

There can be little doubt that Covid-19 is leaving in its wake a world with heightened inequities, monumental poverty, and drastically reduced access to opportunities.  How does a museum deal with such a world, and sustain its efforts to remain an inclusive space?  It’s an immense challenge for us in the Victoria Memorial Hall (VMH), the most-visited (and one of the most-loved, according to Tripadvisor) museum in India, the world’s largest democracy.

In ‘normal’ circumstances, we try to keep the VMH sensitive to the needs of people with various requirements.  This involves curating special programmes for people, including children with special needs, single parents, residents of senior homes, and those who are gender-nonconforming, among others.  Since the campus stretches across 57 acres and is car-free, we provide battery-operated golf-carts from the main gate for elderly persons and people with physical challenges.  We always try to bring more underrepresented groups and underprivileged children to the museum, and curate programmes and activities tailored to them.  And over the past year we have introduced a mother-and-child room for breastfeeding mothers and free sanitary products in the public toilets.  The aim is to move towards becoming a more caring institution; one that actively listens to the voices of the underrepresented.

In a post-Covid world, we have no choice but to become increasingly digital, but this cannot be taken as a panacea in a world where connectivity and bandwidth define the new fault lines of privilege and entitlement.  So how can we undertake our mission to reach the ‘unreached’? 

Can we redefine ‘digital’ to democratise it; to bring it closer to the ground?  Can we use the airwaves and the radio for talk shows, or public television for programmes that engage without the dazzle and the glitz?  Also, can we bring back the focus on serving local communities – maybe programmes and shows that are not that grand or ambitious, but those that connect or resonate with the local patrons, and provide a sense of connection people will surely be craving after this prolonged period of social isolation?  How can we put social media to use?  We definitely need to go digital – there is scarcely any other choice – but that move will need to embrace the low-tech and the local.

We are therefore trying to rethink the question of ‘accessibility’ all over again, and kicking off a series of online programmes with our own International Museum Day event,‘#VMHcomesHome with Inclusive Museum Learning,’ for which we have partnered with the Mumbai-based organization Access for All to craft thought-provoking exercises for children, inspired by our collection.  The aim is to not only offer some fun-filled activities to children, but also to train parents, caretakers and teachers to use museum objects as educational tools for all, including those with special needs.  In our own little way we are trying to redefine ‘digital’; to democratise it; to bring it closer to the ground. To do it with care and sensitivity defines the roadmap ahead.

IMD Think Piece by Siak Ching Chong, CEO, National Gallery Singapore

As we battle a global pandemic, the familiar physical access to museums has been suddenly disrupted.  The digital realm has become new terrain to traverse, in pursuit of creating an accessible museum experience.  

Access to museum collections, as sources of inspiration and healing, is more crucial than ever.  The Care Collection – a collaboration between National Gallery Singapore and Singapore Art Museum – will develop an open art collection for therapeutic use.  Our children’s festival, Small Big Dreamers 2020, has also gone fully virtual, engaging families from home. 

Khoo Sui Hoe
Children of the Sun
Oil on canvas, 230 x 230 cm
This acquisition was made possible with donations from an individual in honour of the memory of June Tan Poh Hah; Daniel & Soo Khim Teo, Heritage Research Sdn Bhd, Penang; and the Art Adoption and Acquisition programme of National Gallery Singapore
Collection of National Gallery Singapore

The digital realm also presents greater opportunities for a more inclusive museum experience.  Diverse voices – those new to the gallery, unable to access the physical museum, or outside of Singapore – can be heard in immediate and empowering ways.  Art+Live, a new live-streamed series of movement, music and literature programmes, receives real-time viewer feedback; Art-in-90sec, an upcoming video series, will feature stories of our artworks told by everyday people.  The wealth of digital content via our new #GalleryAnywhere portal also provides access to curator talks, virtual exhibitions and publications.  The digital realm, at its best, shrinks real-life power imbalances between institutions and individuals, where museum-goers can now co-create their online museum experiences. 

Of course, digital access misses out on certain elements of social interaction and direct encounters with art.  It also raises real challenges to accessibility, such as wi-fi access or tech-savviness.  As we keep innovating to take our collections to diverse audiences, we must ensure that the art experience is not compromised, and that no one is left behind.

IMD Think Piece by Bummo Youn, Director, MMCA, Korea

We had to come up with new ways to meet our audience in the time of an unprecedented pandemic.  For example, we filmed an in-depth curator’s tour of our new calligraphy exhibition and widely publicised it to reach new audiences.  We have also strengthened our online presence by shaking up our website and adding various new online content such as our permanent collections, exhibition tours, lectures, symposiums and artist interviews. 

There is an opportunity in every crisis.  Our new online activities lead me to ponder new ways of enhancing accessibility for the public.  In an effort to make these activities inclusive, we started to provide online curator’s talks with sign language.  To retain their fundamental function as public spaces in a time of crisis, museums must make greater efforts to embrace diverse communities and social minorities.

National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea

IMD Think Piece by Patricia Villanueva, Educational Projects Curator, Museo de Arte de Lima, Peru

Over the last few years we have been wondering how the museum of the future might look. We imagined scenarios and did prospective analysis.   There were also conferences where we – unsuccessfully – tried to find new ways of defining museums.  There was no rush and we did it facing a future that seemed far away.  And then, the future was here.  Many of us were not prepared for a version of the future where our doors are closed, our halls are empty, and our publics only reach us through digital platforms.  A new concept of the museum is now being shaped as the institution itself is transforming.  

So yes.  The challenge to go digital and to find ways to create connections in a socially isolated society is important.  I think everyone knows this by now.  I’m more worried about asking questions. 

What are these connections we want to make?  What is it that we have in our collections that is relevant to what our visitors have been through today?  Are we bringing it to them in a way that is accessible and not patronizing?  Can we be a space that not only houses and protects knowledge, but that also encourages the creation of new knowledge and takes part in that process by opening its resources to discussion, transformation, debate and – why not – criticism?  These are the types of questions that will define our survival.

Museo de Arte de Lima, Peru

IMD Think Piece by Bartomeu Marí, Former Director MALI, Lima, Peru

Diversity and inclusion are notions that burst somewhat brashly into the world of business and politics some time ago.  In the world of culture however, their use has been less frequent, and their appearance reminds us of an ethically unacceptable reality.  I have worked in Europe and Asia, and more recently I spent a beautiful – yet short-lived – period in Latin America.  In these three continents, although the underlying reality is the same for all, the dilemma is experienced very differently: our societies uphold individual, corporate, social and institutional behaviours that systematically exclude and discriminate.

How can we, in the realm of art and culture, contribute to fairer, more ethical and more egalitarian societies?  The answer lies in increased institutionalism, stricter and more intense commitment to the values of empowerment, and equal opportunities.  And it is here that things become complicated.  The objects museums and collections are composed of transmit a language of exclusion, separation, hierarchy and power.

It is not only a matter of being able to guarantee physical access to the content of museums, but also intellectual access.  Physical access to museums has been vigorously restricted, along with access to public spaces in general.  The digital alternative is a transitory illusion that is not exempt from discriminatory consequences.  And it is even more complex and difficult to ensure intellectual access.  The combination of both exclusions is lethal for any area of society that aims towards fair and sustainable development, respect and ethical global values.

IMD Think Piece by José-Carlos Mariátegui, Member of the Board of Directors at MALI, Lima, Peru

The Coronavirus has revealed the fragility of the system of culture in the world.  One of the most apparent aspects is the absence of new technologies in many museums, as well as the sheer inadequacy of skills to be able to use them.  During this terrible pandemic, events on Zoom and virtual tours are becoming more frequent, and some governments have even financed the creation of digital cultural content.  None of this will be relevant however, if it is not accompanied with a deeper and more systematic understanding of the characteristics of the digital world.

Digital media, like live activities, involve challenges, technical knowledge, and a good measure of innovation.  All digital projects operate within an immense repository that also takes on the role of a distribution channel: the internet, which enables the user to package, produce, reconfigure, connect and distribute content.  But these possibilities do not appear out of nowhere.  They require sufficiently flexible platforms with content that is digitalized and organized, so that users are able to imagine heterogeneous circuits around long-established tales, in this way building original narratives.  To remain relevant in a global surge of digital content that competes for our attention, it is fundamental to develop efficient distribution strategies that consider the diversity of our citizens, their local idiosyncrasies, languages, and age groups.  All of this would involve the training of a new digitally-skilled museum professional, with repositories of know-how and an understanding of user experience, metrics and data analysis.  This is an opportunity to generate a digital transformation that allows us to rethink culture, so that it continues to contribute to enriching global awareness and diverse audiences.

José-Carlos Mariátegui is a Member of the Board of Directors at MALI (Lima, Peru), the board of The Peruvian Curators Association, researcher for LSE and CEO of ATA, an organisation working on arts, culture and technology

Tonya Nelson curates ArtUK online exhibition from the British Council collection to celebrate IMD2020

On the occasion of International Museums Day (IMD), it is my pleasure to present a selection of artworks from the British Council collection which celebrate diversity and inclusion as a force for innovation. Each of the artists featured uses ‘difference’ as a means of discovery and an engine for new ideas. They embrace collaboration, experimentation and risk-taking in order to advance artistic practice as well as create space for society to imagine new futures. ICOM UK and British Council work to promote the exchange of ideas between people from different backgrounds across the globe. I invite you to reflect on how we can increase diversity and inclusion as a means of creating a better society.

View Tonya’s exhibition online at


To coincide with IMD, Art UK announces the launch of Curations, a revolutionary free digital tool allowing anyone anywhere to create an online exhibition. Museums and other public collections can also mount digital exhibitions of physical shows that have closed whilst also imagining exhibitions they would like to stage in the future. During lockdown, Curations will be of particular value to collections.

Curations is free to use and has been developed by cultural education charity Art UK to encourage people to engage with the nation’s art. The tool allows anyone to choose artworks for their exhibition from Art UK, the online home for the national art collection. 250,000 artworks by 46,000 artists from 3,300 collection venues are on the platform – numbers that are growing all the time.

Democratising art

Anyone can add commentaries or notes to their Curations, organise their artworks and choose from a selection of exhibition display modes. Curations can be kept private or published publicly and can be shared on social media through the hashtags #CurateYourOwn and #ArtUKCurations.

Whether curating their favourite artworks, exploring a more thematic approach, or revealing their amazing discoveries, users will be inspired to tell their own stories behind the nation’s art collection.

A vital resource for collections

Art UK’s Partner collections can share actual or imagined exhibitions with a global online audience of over 2.5 million annual users. During lockdown, with many exhibitions postponed or cancelled, this will be vital. Curations will broaden access to art collections and help institutions reach new audiences. It will ensure physical exhibitions are digitally preserved for the future.

Curations will help to unite the UK’s digital art collections in innovative ways, showing solidarity across the sector and supporting Towards a National Collection’s new #CollectionsUnited campaign.

A tool for learning

Curations will support learners of all ages and abilities. Teachers will be able to use the tool to plan lessons and activities – encouraging pupils to explore new themes or connections. Students can use it to support their studies and present their own work.

Start curating now

You can view Curations at
Make your own at

Sculptor Conrad Shawcross, Art UK’s 2020 Patron, said: ‘In these unprecedented times, Curations
is an extraordinary tool that offers new and innovative ways for the public to engage with the nation’s art.’

Artist Bob and Roberta Smith, Art UK Trustee said, ‘The British people own the most marvellous
collection of art. Art UK brings it together in one place. Curations will remind them how marvellous it is.’

Andrew Ellis, Art UK’s Director, says: ‘Curations is an example of what is possible when you digitally
connect the national art collection. It means museums and the public alike can now bring together
artworks from institutions across the country, tell the stories behind the art, and share their Curations
with others. Art UK is all about democratising the nation’s art collection. Curations takes this a step

The development and build of Curations has been generously supported by the Ampersand
Foundation. Curations was built by the London agency Keepthinking.