The physical experience of a museum visit will remain incomparable to a virtual experience, which is why these museums are trying to lure visitors burnt out from watching art on a screen.
When the world of tourism shut down in March 2020 because of Covid-19, many museums resorted to virtual visits, activities and programs as a safety net to tide them over and keep in touch with guests and members.
Now, global museums are opening up in-person but international visitors are still few and far between. So museums are pushing into drive-to tourism trends, attempting to lure in local traffic with interesting exhibitions and shows.
One example, from the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, Netherlands, was to create a curation of its most striking Vincent van Gogh’s acquisitions over the past 10 years. The exhibition titled “Here to Stay: A decade of remarkable acquisitions and their stories”, was the museum’s attempt to explain the reasoning behind acquisitions dating back a decade.
“The stories are told from various perspectives, offering visitors a new take on the artworks and explicitly inviting them to consider their own personal perception in relation to the art,” a museum spokesperson said. “We tried to tie this into our campaign as well, in which we ask Dutch residents the question ‘what is this work of art doing in the Van Gogh Museum?’.”
The museum collected his famous works as well as works by artists associated with Van Gogh; those who inspired him, his contemporaries, and those whom he inspired. The exhibition is open until Sept. 12.
At the Children’s Museum of Manhattan in New York City, visitations were upgraded last month to include three two-hour sessions for families to visit. When the museum reopened last October, families were allowed to tour specific exhibits with educators as a guide.
“We’ve moved more towards a model that is similar to what we did before, where families can come in and during the session they can go wherever they want in the museum,” said Leslie Bushara, chief program officer for the museum. “So it’s a lot more directed by the family and the child’s interests.”
In a move to increase engagement across the communities it serves, the museum has partnered with Rit Dye and Bombas, a sock company, for a “Tie Dye July” collaboration where families can visit every Saturday to make tie dye wears to bring home. The museum has also been in partnership with the New York City Department of Homeless Services in its commitment to families living in temporary housing.
“Our goal is to have as many families from as many places around the country, and in the world, come back to the museum,” Bushara said. “We’ve had a wonderfully diverse population of families that come to the museum and we’re really starting to see that, especially as the city is starting to open up more.”
At Tate Museums in London, cancelled shows are being revived to attract locals. A landmark new Rodin exhibition at Tate Modern that was stopped due to Covid was brought back this month.This major exhibition will to focus on the importance of plaster in Auguste Rodin’s work while evoking the atmosphere of the artist’s studio.
In Asia, the Sharjah Art Foundation in the United Arab Emirates, announced that the third iteration of Sharjapan will be open until Oct. 1. The exhibition titled “Remain Calm: Solitude and Connectivity in Japanese Architecture” explores the link between architectural projects from the 12th century and present day with two main themes: solitude and connectivity.
“This year’s edition of Sharjapan explores ideas that resonate powerfully in these uncertain times when the pandemic has made staying at home the ‘new normal’, while disrupting individual connectivity to an outside world that feels fraught with challenges, risk and unknown possibilities,” a spokesperson for the Sharjah Art Foundation told The National.
The Chicago History Museum in Chicago, Illinois, will be opening an exhibition in the fall that is geared towards children and students. The campaign will be for an indoor visitation for students who have been cooped up with remote learning for the past year.
“It will be the start of a push to get back to normal in a sense and get people through our doors,” said Rachel Hatch, the public communication manager.
Some museums are not shying away from the pandemic as a topic, no matter how weary people may be. The New York Historical Society, for example, is “collecting materials related to the Covid-19 pandemic and its sudden disruption of lives around the world. Our focus is on New York and the surrounding region and our goal is to document all aspects of these crises.”
That future exhibit may be the hardest sell of all for museum lovers seeking a little escape.
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Photo credit: Museums are working to attract the more local visitors at a time when tourism is very low Phil Roeder / Flickr