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Museum Group Urges Reopened Institutions to Check Workers’ Temperatures, Suspend Guided Tours

This article was first published by ARTnews https://www.artnews.com/art-news/news/museums-reopening-coronavirus-guidelines-1202685405/

As art institutions around the world begin to make plans to reopen following coronavirus-related closures, a global network of modern and contemporary museum experts has released a set of recommended practices to continue to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

The International Committee for Museums and Collections of Modern Art (CIMAM), an industry group with more than 35,000 members, has issued recommended safety guidelines for institutions that have reopened or are planning to do so soon. Based on precautionary steps taken in March by the National Gallery Singapore, M+ Hong Kong, and Mori Art Museum in Tokyo, CIMAM’s recommendations include ensuring all visitors wear protective masks on museum premises, suspending guided tours and large events, and screenings for visitors who appear unwell. The organization also encourages institutions to consider turning away people who have visited the virus’s epicenters recently.

Proposed staff safety measures include checking workers’ temperatures twice a day, having employees wear protective masks at all times, and creating schedules wherein workers alternate working on site and at home. The organization encourages museums to increase the frequency of cleaning and disinfecting their spaces, to urge visitors to purchase tickets online (as opposed to in-person), and to make hand sanitizer readily available across different areas.

Finally, CIMAM is encouraging modern and contemporary art museums to clearly communicate their efforts to maintain social distancing, temperature screenings, and contact tracing measures so as to “pre-empt and manage the expectations of visitors.”

The full list of guidelines can be found on CIMAM’s website.

The future of going to a museum: As social distancing sticks around, how will we enjoy art and science?

This article was first published in the Denver Post https://theknow.denverpost.com/2020/04/29/future-science-art-museums-coronavirus/238235/

Like so many institutions and businesses, Colorado’s 300-plus museums also face a vague and uncertain future when they reopen. However, like many individuals and businesses, these venues are finding new ways to connect in the now and plan for when things start up again.

“For us one of the real discoveries of the stay-at-home orders has been the relative ease with which we can deliver a range of content to our audience’s home devices, and the audience’s willingness to participate in online programming,” said Dean Sobel, founding director of the Clyfford Still Museum. “This has included both new live programs but also, I think, very good content we created several years ago that we had considered ‘archived,’ but we now see as highly relevant in this new world.”

Art, history, artifact and other museums of all sizes across the state have suffered, both from loss of ticket revenue and the money they make by hosting events and renting out space. Museums in Colorado have a total economic impact of $1.08 billion, and create over 16,000 jobs. Before the closures, the Denver Museum of Nature and Science saw around 3,300 visitors a day. Now, the only funds come from memberships, donations and whatever state money has been granted, a scenario mirrored by many other museums.

The institutions also have to look at how to keep the public engaged with them while under lock down. Officials from the DMNS said online traffic to its education page has increased about 17 fold to over 500 views per week. Teachers too are reaching out for virtual content to share with their students.

One way the Clyfford Still Museum has been keeping relevant is by relaunching many of its past initiatives, such as online publications, a 360-degree virtual walk-through tour of the museum and the online collection featuring more than 2,500 artworks.

“In addition to the live and recorded virtual programs, our education team continues to post at-home activities for families on our blog and they create videos with additional educational content including writing activities and information about Still’s works,” said Sanya Andersen-Vie, the director of marketing and communications at the Clyfford Still Museum, adding the staff is also working with teachers to provide virtual material the educators can use. “The content has been exciting to see and share. For example, we had someone send a Still painting recreated in LEGO blocks.”

It wasn’t too long ago around 400,000 people flocked to the Denver Art Museum to see the celebrated “Claude Monet: The Truth of Nature” exhibit, which closed right around the time the coronavirus started making noise in February. Tickets were timed but still hundreds waited in line to fill the gallery space. When the stay-at-home order lifts and museums finally open to the public again, it’s doubtful something like that popular exhibit can happen, at least not in the same way and not for a long time.

“A big question we have to ask is how do we acknowledge the fears and recreate the experiences so people feel safe and know we are keeping their health and safety in mind without the constant reminder of the new reality,” said Jessica Brunecky, president of Colorado-Wyoming Association of Museums. But, she added, “If we have to limit how many people are coming into the space and doors through lines or timed tickets, at what point is that profitable and what point is [the show and/or museum] losing money?”

But it’s not just the big shows that may change. Already museums are looking into new, more permanent ways to get their content, expertise and education to the public. So far, online programming, digital galleries and virtual classes and seminars appear to the new normal.

“We already do a lot of work outside of our museum walls and directly in the community, but this moment forced us to imagine new ways to connect with people without sharing the same spaces,” said Dawn DiPrince, chief operating officer at History Colorado, the leading state history museum in Denver. “We have staff across the state and we quickly leaned on our tools for tele-collaboration.”

To do this, the state-funded History Colorado created new online channels for youth and adult education, started a weekly digest and fast-tracked episodes of its podcasts. On the staff side, it redeployed guest services staff to support other departments, mobilized the philanthropy department in response to the federal CARES Act, and converted the Stephen H. Hart Research Center and Office of Archaeology and Historic Preservation into remote operations so it could still respond to research questions. The museum also launched History in the Making, a comprehensive statewide collecting initiative in partnership with dozens of schools, communities, and more than 40 newsrooms around the state. The museum is asking Coloradans to share their pandemic experience for future generations to understand.

“We pivoted from our powerful work and goals for human-to-human engagement into a realm of human-to-digital-human engagement,” DiPrince said. “In a few short days, our teams pulled together and created what we like to call ‘museum magic.’”

But History Colorado isn’t just helping its Denver museum and all the branches it manages. Like so many public-oriented businesses, it’s reaching out to the community, too. One way is by having the State Historical Fund team working remotely to keep up with the 282 active grants, which total around $24 million, something that’s helped the group distribute more than $650,000 in grant dollars to community projects across the state. At the El Pueblo History Museum in Pueblo, supplies were collected for community elders. The Fort Garland Museum in San Luis Valley is acting as a center for college students who need digital connection to attend online classes. The curatorial and archaeology teams donated masks and gloves for the medical effort. In turn, the organization is also exploring ways to transform its Hands-On History program into emergency child care sites in different parts of the state.

“In these weeks of uncertainty we have focused on three important elements, serving families with kids at home, meeting our mission of Colorado’s history and serving the people of Colorado,” DiPrince said. “We believe our mission and our museums are vital elements to a functioning society as our work builds an understanding of history that fosters a better present and a stronger future, and also enables people to make meaningful connections between their lives and the larger world.”

For some museums like the Colorado Railroad Museum, the stay-at-home order has brought so many to its virtual doors that perhaps more people will be coming to its real site once it reopens.

“People who are stuck at home have been contacting us with research questions and the like, model railroaders are working on projects and they need diagrams and paint color matching help from our Richardson Library archives, and families are going through ‘old stuff’ and finding items that they think we might be interested in adding to the Museum’s collection,” said Paul Hammond, the executive director at the Colorado Railroad Museum. “We have been pleasantly surprised to find a lot of support and interest out there.”

This open-air museum has also added a cache of online resources including digital train tours, railroad menu and recipe ideas, and weekly story time and craft episodes to help engage the younger train lovers. The hope, said Hammond, is that since the Railroad Museum is outdoors, it won’t be too hard to welcome back guests with plenty of safety precautions.

“In some ways we may have an easier time in terms of meeting physical distancing requirements, but parts of what we do are not that simple,” he said. “We have exhibit galleries and a small viewing space for the model railroad in our main depot building, and these provide some real challenges in terms of distancing requirements. And a signature activity of ours, train rides, is also something that we’re giving a lot of thought to.”

Overall, when the stay-at-home order lifts and museums are able to reopen, they won’t operate the same as they did before the pandemic. At least, not for a while. But, many museum personal believe that, with time, things will get closer to what we remember as normal, as long as we support the institutions though memberships, donations, shopping in the museum stores and keeping interested by visiting online and, when the time is right, coming back to the physical spaces.

“While it’s probably never been more difficult to predict the future, one thing is certain, when the people of Colorado decide that it’s time to return to our museums, we will welcome them with a bursting appreciation for the joy of civic activities and human connection,” History Colorado’s DiPrince said. “Of course, our museums’ re-openings will center the care and safety of our communities first, but, with or without open museum doors, we will continue to maintain our relationships and connections with the people we serve.”


Cultural Protection Fund: Disaster and Climate Change Preparedness in East Africa

Apply for a grant in the new Disaster and Climate Change Preparedness in East Africa round.

In recent years, there has been a growing awareness of the need to increase the cultural heritage sector’s capacity to prepare for and mitigate the effects of natural disasters and climate change.

This new round of grants is open for applications for projects (up to £125k) relating to preparedness measures to protect cultural heritage against the effects of natural disasters and climate change in one or more of the following countries: Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan, South Sudan, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda. 

This is a pilot round which will help to test the Cultural Protection Fund’s approach to expanding their work in this area. Due to the timescale and available budget, they anticipate funding only 3-5 projects.

Please note that in order to apply for a grant, you must first have a mandatory conversation with a Cultural Protection Fund Grants Manager, which will enable us to assess your eligibility to submit an application. Details of how to arrange a mandatory conversation can be found on the CPF website (see below).

Visit the Cultural Protection Fund website for more information on the fund and how to apply https://www.britishcouncil.org/arts/culture-development/cultural-protection-fund/apply/disaster-climate-change-grants

Deadline for applications is 21 June 2020

IMD Think Piece by Manasi Prasad, Museum Director, Indian Music Experience, Bengaluru

In music, the pause button is a symbol of silence – a break before you can either rewind to the past, or fast forward to the future. 

The Indian Music Experience museum celebrates the diversity of music in India, and as an extension, diversity and inclusion is something we deeply care about.  From its design 10 years ago, which ensured that we were accessible to those with physical disabilities, to even our earliest outreach activities, including tours by specially trained docents for the hearing and visually impaired, as well as those with learning disabilities, we continue to prioritise accessibility.  One of our current projects involves developing a museum app, which will allow for even greater interaction with the exhibits, especially for those with special needs.  Whilst digital engagement is by no means a new issue, the present situation has forced us to accelerate that thought process as we look to remotely engage with our audiences.  As a music museum, we have taken full advantage of the domain we work in to organize online music therapy sessions, songs and storytelling for children, virtual tours, and artist interactions.

While doing so, we are acutely aware that online engagement is a poor second to the magic of people coming together in a physical space.  And even when the eventual reopening does happen, experiential and technology-oriented museums such as ours are driven by the experience of touch, which will continue to have restrictions in the months to come.  However, my belief in the creative and innovative capabilities of the people who work in this sector makes me optimistic that we will, however gradually, figure this out.  Within our digital engagement, it is critical that we keep asking ourselves these questions.  How do we include the large audiences outside the reach of digital technology and the internet?  How do we ensure all the content we put on the internet is accessible to people with disabilities?  Are we ensuring those with access to, but limited comfort with, technology are able to engage with us? 

Museums, in many ways, set the benchmark for the rest of society.  From architecture and design, to accessibility, to community engagement, we ideally should, and often do, lead the way.  Let us work together to show the world that museums and the arts have an increased relevance in a post-COVID world.

IMD Think Piece by Dr Sophia, Handaka CoMuseum Conference Co-Founder and Curator of World Cultures, Benaki Museum, Athens

Time and space feel different these days.  We spend such long hours in digital space that the alternation to analogue almost goes unnoticed.  Many will argue that this bidirectional movement was only accelerated during lockdown (I know for sure that Jeffrey Schnapp would); that the digital dimension is indispensable and complementary to the physical.  I would agree, only to question the degree of diversity, (equity, accessibility) and inclusion that it ensures.  And I don’t have an answer.  We live in a gigantic “what if” situation of resilient normality.

Take the #MuseumFromHome movement.  In order to engage with audiences out there, museums are inadvertently experimenting on the experimental.  There is an opportunity here for change, and the transformation is ethical.  We need to shift from hardware to software thinking, as Charles Landry puts it, and see digital engagement as a process, not a project.  Using digital means to think, design, plan and be creative with culture at the centre does not mean physical environments become less relevant. 

In order to build back better, we should put heads together to find new ways of cultural production that emerge from unexplored synergies: transversal – especially involving the CCIs and tech-savvies; community-based, to include and meaningfully engage more diverse audiences and touch more difficult matters, like equity, climate change and the role of culture.  By opening up the cultural ecosystem, to an extent merging with the digital ecosystem, we become stronger advocates to what has proved a reality during COVID times: Culture is not just leisure but a vital source of human development. 

Benaki Museum, Athens

IMD Think Piece by Jadwiga Charzyńska, Director of Centre for Contemporary Art, Łaźnia, Poland

The closing of cultural institutions does not mean suspending their activity, in the same way that social isolation is not a reason to isolate ourselves from culture.  Museums and galleries are slowly reopening after a two-month break caused by an epidemiological danger.  The institution’s door is not yet wide open, hence so far only the seals have been broken and padlocks unlocked.  Spectators will not be able to benefit from a full cultural offer of many institutions for a long time.  Educational and social activity of any kind, such as artistic and residential exchanges, may not happen at all this year. In this atmosphere of limited activity, behind closed doors, the tools of social inclusion developed so far are beginning to rust. 

How can we encourage people to participate in culture in a pandemic-afflicted world?  How can artists find their way in a world full of antibacterial gels and face masks?  The digital world is one of the answers.  Art has been moving to the internet, whether we want it or not.  The popularity of the online offer of the LAZNIA CCA shows us that virtual contact with culture is necessary, and in a certain sense it is an inclusive process.  The digital offer is free, widely available and international.  And yet the inclusiveness of this process remains, in a sense, an illusion.  When the museum’s door is fully open again we should consider those who do not know what webinars or Skype are, and those who are not able to use digital media for various reasons.  Maybe we should devote our future post-epidemiological projects to this problem?

IMD Think Piece by Ozalp Birol, General Manager of the Pera Museum and the Istanbul Research Institute

The pandemic has shown us, once again, that access to culture and the arts must not be limited by the walls of institutions.  During this period, we will see that institutions using the opportunities afforded by digital technologies, understanding the dynamics of digital media, creating appropriate solutions, emphasizing the importance of digital infrastructure, electronic archives, and information management, and using these assets smartly, will make a difference.

At the Pera Museum and the Istanbul Research Institute, we were quite prepared.  During this period of pandemic in which we have found ourselves, we found strength and advantage in the work we have been doing since our founding: our digital archive; our web-based work; the new section we set up in 2008 for social media and public access programs; the cooperation that began in 2012 upon the invitation of Google Arts & Culture; the virtual reality experience begun in 2019 with “A Journey to the World of Osman Hamdi Bey”; and the holograms, mappings, games and virtual reality applications we have put to use in a number of our exhibitions over the last ten years. 

This global situation, however, is unpredictable, dynamic and difficult.  The key is to maintain the strength and permanence of the connection we have with our visitors.  The chaos created by the pandemic dissolves everything we know and ushers in a new period.

All actors in the world of culture and the arts will need to come up with flexible, fast, and effective solutions in this period, emphasizing participation and sharing.  Museums, too, will have to rapidly reassess and renew their paradigms regarding museology, event planning, management, and corporate governance. 

This is what we aim to do at Suna and Inan Kıraç Foundation, Pera Museum, and the Istanbul Research Institute.

IMD Think Piece by Arta Agani, Director, National Gallery of Kosovo

For museums worldwide, the pandemic crisis has shed a light on new directions to consider.  Despite the fact that several years before the pandemic, digitalization brought humankind to a place where nobody wanted to go, a place of isolation and introverted youth, with diminishing human interaction, we can now regard it as a preparation period.  Digitalization and social media, of course, has now become an abnormal blessing in abnormal times.

It is a sort of a blessing for museums and us cultural workers, allowing us to discover new ways to reach out to our audiences and to become creative in ways previously unthinkable.  Methods that might have appeared too banal have now become an inevitable and optimal way of connecting to our audiences and approaching artists to make contributions to our ever-evolving culture, all via social media channels.

At the National Gallery of Kosovo, our virtual doors opened up for artists.  Works from our collection that sit in the dark, because we don’t have sufficient space for a permanent exhibition, are posted online for our audiences.  To our surprise, this enhanced online activity attracted the attention of a society in isolation – hence expanding our online audience. 

This way we have learned to be more open to the public and to communicate in ways other than within the museum walls; to be more open in a closed-down society.  Always hoping that our online audience will become a physical one in the future, we have learned to adapt to the idea that maybe virtuality is our future, or, at least, a considerable part of museum work! 

IMD Think Piece by Du Pengfei, Deputy Executive Director of Tsinghua University Art Museum, China

Tsinghua University Art Museum (TAM) officially opened in the fall of 2016.  As a university museum, TAM houses a collection of more than 13,000 objects dating from antiquity to the present day, including masterpieces of Chinese painting and calligraphy, porcelain, and furniture, alongside many other historical, modern and contemporary artefacts.

Due to the crisis of the COVID-19 outbreak, although TAM has been closed during the past months, we never stopped in our mission to create an environment for advancing and supporting humanistic and aesthetic education at Tsinghua University, both within our community and internationally.  In order to better convey the diversity and inclusion we endeavour to implement in this process, digital engagement emerges as a new tool at TAM with which to overcome the restrictions of closure.  Series of digital activities have been developed to reach audiences in a safe and broad manner during this special period. The public can easily access TAM’s website and view most exhibitions through our Digital Exhibitions section.  Live-streaming guided tours and online lectures held by curators and scholars enables us to break limitations of space and time worldwide.  Additionally, on April 26th, TAM celebrated the 109th anniversary of the founding of Tsinghua University and opened its 2020 Window Archives, an online project functioning as a visual record and archive to foster diversity and inclusion during the global pandemic situation, gathering thousands of photographs and videos from many countries.

Recently, in alignment with many other museums in China, we decided to re-open the museum for students and staff members.  In this manner, TAM will continue to play a leading role in cultivating students’ international vision and cross-cultural cognition in a global context.