Connecting to Culture During a Pandemic

Connecting to Culture During a Pandemic - COVID19


Vacant streetscapes, public gathering places with closed doors, real time images reflective of an Edward Hopper world: these are the shared signs of human experience across the globe these past few weeks. As we increasingly retreat to our homes to work, learn, play and live remotely, we look to our screens and devices for information, distraction and comfort. In the absence of in-person human connection, technology platforms and these devices have become critical tools for keeping us together. We are a global society whose natural tendency (for the majority) is to seek cultural and social connectivity, as opposed to practicing social distancing.

Cultural entities have shut their doors and canceled programs, events and public gatherings. This leaves a gap in our physical world, and we don’t know how long it will last. However, virtual tours, articles, blog posts, videos and impromptu concerts on living room couches have proliferated our screen time and news feeds. In the first weeks of closures, proactive curators at smaller museums toured vacant galleries with the help of a personal hand-held device. News outlets from the New York Times to online travel sites have listed virtual museum tours for those cooped up at home.

Cultural institutions such as museums hold greater public trust than many other organizations. They endorse verified information, relay facts and inspire their audiences. In this unprecedented moment, these spaces of public trust are supporting their audiences in creative and welcoming ways, proving that they are not a luxury: they are, in fact, essential to social connectivity and respite in times of crisis.

Society needs this. While visitors are temporarily barred from seeing works of art or hearing inspiring rhymes in person, they now have the ability to move beyond the physical space where objects are displayed or performances take place. Thanks to virtual access, visitors can disassemble physical barriers to culture – a new way of breaking the fourth wall. This online content is lending access to those who previously would not have visited a museum. Now, these new approaches are providing once non-visitors with educational opportunities for their families or just feeding untapped curiosity. In a way, this provides a level of accessibility to content that has not been seen or noticed until now.

While this shift to online content has created more equitable access to cultural institutions than ever before, homes and individuals lacking wifi or personal devices proves a deeper inequity still to be solved. In the new era of "free" culture, we now need to resolve this "last mile" conundrum for those who might need and benefit. How can we guide resources for underserved populations to ensure that they are not left behind?

Humans gather. Humans share. Humans create, collaborate and celebrate. We have a need for one another, and we have a need for the creative products we craft, whether we are the maker or the audience. The arts in all their forms nourish us. As humans, we have a deeply ingrained need, now more than ever, to preserve our cultural and historical equity. We also benefit from pausing, if only for a minute, to reflect with nostalgia on works of art, music or dance that help us to recall better times. In doing so, we can look with positivity and hope to the future. We can spark joy and find the mental fortitude needed to face the unknowns ahead.

Will these temporary measures of sharing and accessibility endure once the world returns to some semblance of a routine? What will the short- and long-term impacts be? It’s early. We are all still in a tactical phase, working through the next few days and weeks. We know this crisis will trigger major financial challenges for institutions, their staff and their public. Inevitably protocols will change, the use of interactives may change, and even visitor flow or capacity may be altered.

What we can recognize from the activity in the last weeks is that these places are necessary. The activities inside of them are necessary. The creative spirit and display is necessary, crucial even, to our mental and social health and everyday society. For proof, look to any spontaneous balcony concert or to the hits on museums’ online tours. We may be "place less" right now, but we want to celebrate the many amazing virtual events and places our cultural institutions have created.

Let’s keep connected with and through culture, and by extension, with each other.

Creative Engagement Through Social Media

Website Discovery Content

  • Arizona Science Center (Phoenix, Arizona)
    Dedicated COVID-19 resource channel with videos, articles, at-home science experiments to help families make sense of the pandemic; Also streaming daily Facebook Live demonstrations
  • Art Institute of Chicago (Chicago, Illinois)
    In-depth virtual content from mapping future visits to interactive features exploring single works
  • Castello di Rivoli (Turin, Italy)
    Digital Cosmos online tours were quickly developed in response to Italy's shutdown by curator Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev
  • Denver Art Museum (Denver, Colorado)
    Professional development, lesson plans and videos available in the Creativity Resource
  • Detroit Institute of Art (Detroit, Michigan)
    Virtual concerts, collections access, learning resources and even movie recommendations on At Home with the DIA
  • Field Museum (Chicago, Illinois)
    At-home activities for all ages
  • Guggenheim Museum (New York, New York)
    Guggenheim From Home offers tours of the architecture of this UNESCO World Heritage site with 99% Invisible's Roman Mars, virtual tour via Google Arts & Culture, Live from the Guggenheim, and more
  • Kennedy Center (Washington, DC)
    Free performances, clips and classes on their Digital Stage
  • Kunst Historisches Museum Wien (Vienna, Austria)
    #ClosedButActive includes digital collections, app-based museum tours, podcasts and Google 360 tours
  • LAMCA (Los Angeles, California)
    Redesigned homepage shares how to watch, listen, learn, read and browse the museum at home
  • Le Gallerie Degli Uffizi (Florence, Italy)
    HyperVisions offers an HD look at masterpieces from the collection
  • Louvre (Paris, France)
    Experience the Mona Lisa in VR and more
  • Milwaukee Art Museum (Milwaukee, Wisconsin)
    A variety of online resources including lesson plans for little ones and VR tours of the museum
  • Milwaukee Public Museum (Milwaukee, Wisconsin)
    Digitized collections offer access to detailed information about the museum's artifacts
  • MoMA (New York, New York)
    Offering access to their magazine, at-home art lessons and free online courses
  • Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest (Budapest, Hungary)
    Guided in-depth digital tours of several galleries
  • NASA
    Ultra High Definition video gallery teaches the science of space
  • Perot Museum of Nature and Science (Dallas, Texas)
    Amaze Your Brain at Home offers animated videos and at-home activities
  • Rijksmuseum (Amsterdam, Netherlands)
    Ten online initiatives including curator talks, 360 visits and more
  • SFMOMA (San Francisco, California)
    Video interviews with artists of today
  • Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza (Dallas, Texas)
    Explore the history  of President John F. Kennedy's assassination via a detailed map of the motorcade and assassination timeline
  • Smithsonian Institution (Washington, DC)
    Open Access includes 3D content, Learning Lab lessons, images and more
  • Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History (Washington, DC)
    Take a VR tour of the museum's most popular galleries
  • The Anne Frank House (Amsterdam, Netherlands)
    Visit the Secret Annex in an online tour or through a downloaded VR app
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, New York)
    The Met 360 Project offers VR tours of selected collections, The Met Breuer and The Met Cloisters
  • The National Gallery (London, United Kingdom)
    Google 360 tours of several galleries within the museum
  • Thyssen-Bornemisza Museo Nacional (Madrid, Spain)
    #Thyssenmultimedia offers videos, virtual tours and other multimedia projects to experience the museum from home
  • United States Civil Rights Trail
    Gallery provides a photo journey of key sites and settings contributing to US civil rights
  • Van Gogh Museum (Amsterdam, Netherlands)
    A variety of online discovery activities from coloring, to Storyzoo, to Unravel  Van Gogh app and more
  • Vatican Museums (Rome, Italy)
    360 tours of the Vatican museums and Sistine Chapel

Explore with YouTube

  • Monterey Bay Aquarium (Monterey, California)
    Daily live action cams, Critter Corner, Morning MeditOceans and more
  • Museum of the Africa Diaspora MoAD (San Francisco, California)
    Large collection of lectures, interviews, performances and more
  • Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (Boston, Massachusetts)
    Behind the scenes videos of exhibition installations, collections and more
  • Musical Instrument Museum MIM (Phoenix, Arizona)
    Watch recorded performances, spotlights with creators and more
  • National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea (Seoul, South Korea)
    View interviews, lectures from curators and more
  • Phillips Collection (Washington, DC)
    Enjoy in-depth collections and exhibition tours, past musical performances and lectures
  • The Andy Warhol Museum, Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)
    Recordings of the Sound Series in Silver Studio Sessions
  • The State Hermitage Museum (St. Petersburg, Russia)
    A five-hour 4K tour through the Hermitage, produced by Apple Russia; and 360 Virtual Visits of all galleries

Leveraging Google Arts & Culture

  • British Museum (London, United Kingdom)
    Selected online exhibits and VR museum tours
  • Street Art in NYC (New York, New York)
    Visit nine murals in locations across the city, by The Street Museum of Art
  • The National Museum in Krakow (Krakow, Poland)
    Take a self-guided tour through the museum
  • The State Russian Museum (St. Petersburg, Russia)
    Selections from the Russian Museum

Livestreams to Catch the Action

  • Live from Here
    Converted to Live from Home streamed concerts during social distancing
  • NPR
    Collecting virtual concerts to enjoy during quarantine
  • San Diego Zoo (San Diego, California)
    Choose from nearly a dozen animal live cams
  • Smithsonian National Zoo (Washington, DC)
    Features a series of webcams, including the famous Giant Panda Cam
  • St. Louis Zoo (St. Louis, Missouri)
    Daily live webcam of the Penguin and Puffin Coast enclosure
  • The Metropolitan Opera (New York, New York)
    Nightly livestreamed performances
  • Vienna Opera (Vienna, Austria)
    Offering free access to Live at Home opera performance streams during shutdown