How can digital platforms help museums connect to audiences during Covid-19 emergency?

Rebecca Atkinson, 19.03.2020
Museums share resources and ideas on social media
From virtual tours to e-learning tools, museums have been sharing resources the different ways digital platforms can provide a way for them to continue to connect with the public, share collections and stories, and support those who are vulnerable during closures and the Covid-19 crisis.

Many cultural bodies are focusing on collating and sharing educational resources for home learning as well as activities to keep children entertained while at home. Other museums are offering virtual tours and collection highlights, and a number have shared guides and resources for the good of the sector.

The Museums Association is working with the BBC on its new Culture in Quarantine strand. This will be an essential arts and culture service across radio, television and digital platforms.

Museums embracing the digital side of engagement including Hastings Museum & Art Gallery, which has launched a digital museum via the Twitter hashtag #HastingsDigitalMuseum as well as via its Facebook and Instagram pages.

The British Library in London has announced it will focus on digital content, including a display of some of its collection of historical globes (from 26 March).

The Science Museum Group's five sites are promoting their online collections of 325,000 objects.

The Royal Academy has started a #RAdailydoodle challenge encouraging people to draw while at home.

Art UK has almost 250,000 digitised artworks available online, and from May it will offer users the opportunity to create and share albums of artworks as well as "digital surrogate exhibitions".

The Museums Disability Collaborative Network says the emergency is an opportunity to develop accessible digital content and working practices: "Though this crisis is unprecedented, when this is over we need to gather what we have learned about the sector and how we can support all of our workforce who have a chronic illness, disabilities (hidden and visible) and changing needs in relation to service provision."

Meanwhile, a number of online lists, blogs and articles aim to support museums with their digital engagement during this time:

  • Mia Ridge, the digital curator at the British Library in London, has written a blog post listing portals of virtual tours, exhibitions, digitised objects and texts, as well as a custom search engine for quick searches
  • Hannah Hethmon, the executive producer at Better Lemon Creative Audio, has written a blog post on how museums can create a quick cheap podcast while closed
  • The cultural consultant Jenni Fuchs has put together a Google spreadsheet of online museum resources for children and families 
  • Ben Melham, the director of Mortice Consulting, has listed some of the ways audiences and supports can continue to engage with and support cultural heritage in a LinkedIn article
  • MCN, a US-based network, has put together a guide to virtual museum resources, e-learning and online collections
  • The Twitter hashtag #MuseumFromHome is full of videos sharing favourite objects, tours and more
  • The free MyLearning platform, which is designed for teachers, is working with cultural organisations to develop digital content linked to the curriculum
  • #MuseumHour has held a special session on how the sector is responding to the pandemic

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