There is no denying that these are uncertain times we are living in. As the summer months approach, plans to go on holiday, see distant family members, and visit museums and galleries would usually be at the forefront of everybody’s mind. The latter of visiting museums and galleries was something I was particularly looking forward to this summer. As a third-year student on the History of Art and Museums Studies course at Liverpool John Moores University, visiting new and exciting exhibitions this summer was something that very much excited me. However, in the same way that everyone has had to adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic, so have galleries and museums.
Part of the museum experience is getting to appreciate the works in an up-close and personal way. It’s about getting to walk around a museum or historic property dedicated to showcasing historical, contemporary and impactful art whilst being able to talk about such works with fellow visitors. It’s often been noted that a crisis is also an opportunity though, and this has been a time for museums and galleries to adapt to COVID-19 and view it as an opportunity to innovate the gallery experience.
The step that many organisations and galleries have taken is to turn the museum experience into an immersive online experience. Sites like Blakesley Hall, where I volunteer, have already taken steps towards this notion of an immersive online museum, this being via their 360 degree tour and photos (see inside Blakesley Hall). Or why not take a walk around Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery using the virtual tour?
The National Gallery in London has also taken this approach, and you can experience the gallery in a virtual reality through the means of a phone, laptop or VR headset. Why not take a look? Visit National Gallery Virtual Tour website. It is these adaptations that are going to allow for the continuation of learning, engaging and connection between organisations and their audiences. Maybe even growing these audiences, as people can explore these spaces from across the globe.
Virtual programmes and online courses have also started to make their way to the forefront. The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York has started offering free online courses to the public to help people still feel connected to the art world in a climate where viewing art intimately is not really possible. Fancy having a go? Then take a look at MoMA's Online Courses.
By organisations offering these services to the public, they are creating a stronger connection and dialogue with audiences and creating a community. Overall, I’m intrigued to see what levels art galleries, museums and historic properties will reach, especially in conveying the museum experience digitally whilst we are unable to visit.