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Facing Challenge with Resilience: How Museums are Responding During COVID-19

April 1, 2020

Facing Challenge with Resilience: How Museums are Responding During COVID-19
Online Educational Resources, Virtual Visits, Community Service Among Ways Museums are Adapting

South Carolina Aquarium
South Carolina Aquarium

A visit to a museum can be educational, inspiring, calming, or encouraging. Museums bring people together, expand our horizons, teach us about the world, and provide moments of peaceful reflection.

At a time when our nation is facing a pandemic and community needs have abruptly changed, museums have quickly adapted to continue serving their communities. Even with their physical locations closed, museums of all kinds are offering free online learning resources, access to their digital collections, virtual tours, and online exhibits—all invaluable opportunities to educate and connect people across the world.

How Museums are Responding

Supporting Education: Museums have long been leaders in informal learning. Today, students can continue learning away from the classroom through hundreds of online resources that museums are offering. There’s no shortage of topics, from animal habitats and science to art history and wildlife biology and architecture.

Many museums also offer age-specific resources. Here are a few examples of museums, among hundreds, who have extended their physical experience to the digital world.

Promoting Culture and the Human Experience: Museums are offering many virtual engagement opportunities, such as tours, online art, and guided digital experiences. 

  • The Smithsonian Institution is providing virtual gallery tours of its museums, educational resources, and webcasts. More than 1,000 other museums from across the world are also offering virtual tours.
     
  • The Philbrook Museum is sharing images of the museum and its collections and engaging its community with art related discussions and a concert series on social media.
     
  • The Cincinnati Zoo is producing daily home safari videos for people to get to know the animals that live there.
     
  • The New York Botanic Garden is sharing the beauty of spring in the garden through their NYBG at Home that includes virtual garden walks and a plant talk blog.
     
  • People aren’t the only ones getting to experience the wonder of museums. The Atlanta Humane Society brought puppies to see the underwater habitats of the Georgia Aquarium.

Giving Back to the Community: In addition to boosting online learning resources, such as story times, history activities, and audiovisual exhibits, many museums are supporting state emergency response efforts during this crisis. Take History Colorado and its member museums, for example:

  • El Pueblo History Museum is a Grab and Go lunch site for Pueblo City Schools. They are collecting donated supplies and delivering to community elders, in collaboration with Pueblo’s Catholic Charities.
     
  • Fort Garland Museum is a Community Access Site for San Luis Valley college students who need digital connection to attend college classes that have moved to remote learning.
     
  • Five of History Colorado’s museums across the state—History Colorado Center, El Pueblo, Trinidad, Fort Garland, and Ute Indian Museum—are working with the Colorado Department of Higher Education to serve as drop off sites for donated laptops for students who lack the tech equipment necessary for remote learning.
     
  • History Colorado is among the many institutions, such as the Chicago History Museum, donating masks and gloves in supplies for the medical effort.

Supporting Museum Staff:

  • The Michigan Museums Association has started weekly online Colleague Chats to keep the Michigan museum community connected.
     
  • The Conservation Center for Art & Historic Artifacts is offering online presentations on a range of conservation and preservation topics.
     
  • The International Coalition of Sites of Conscience has a weekly email to inspire innovation during this difficult time, sharing ideas, recommending resources related to creative cultural programming, and providing quick links to self-care ideas.

You can search for more opportunities on social media with #museumsfromhome.

Resources

Our COVID-19 Resources for Museums and Libraries page provides additional resources compiled by some museum associations. You can find official government information from the CDC, OSHA, and the EPA, among others, on the main COVID-19 Updates page, which will also include the latest updates on IMLS funding related to coronavirus.

For More Information

Questions or concerns? Do you have a resource you’d like to share? Please contact us at info@imls.gov or 202-653-IMLS (4657).