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.