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Open access

Museums and the Pandemic, One Year On

Some Reflections on Academic Resilience

Joanna Cobley

Written as notes from the field, this article explores the overlaps between researcher development and the idea of academic resilience within the museum and heritage studies community. During a climate of uncertainty and rapid change, it argues that alongside the academic literature, positive psychology methods transfer well into the researcher development space. Methods involved informal email conversations with museum and heritage practitioners united by how COVID-19 and border lockdown presented new opportunities to connect, share ideas, and rethink. Presented as short narratives, these findings show how researchers and practitioners in northern Europe, the United Kingdom and Canada share similar concerns to those in the southern hemisphere about climate change, equity, well-being, resilience, and sustainability. These narratives highlight the importance of encouraging critical engagement, finding ways to traverse time zones that build international networks and provide leadership opportunities for researchers at any level.

Open access

Art Gallery Education in New Zealand during COVID-19

The Emergence of a Community of Practice

Esther Helen McNaughton

Abstract

This article describes the unprecedented coming together of New Zealand art gallery educators to respond to the challenges of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic. This newly formed community of practice met virtually three times at critical points. At each stage, new concerns were discussed and understandings evolved. The gallery educators were able to approach shared issues cooperatively, enabling mutual support to a degree that had hitherto not been possible. By the end of these meetings, gallery educators were reestablishing their regular teaching practice with the integration of many of the innovations of the period. Additionally, the meetings fulfilled a preexisting desire for closer contact and professional support, and thus proved to be the foundation of an ongoing national professional group for New Zealand art gallery educators.

Open access

Museums in the Pandemic

A Survey of Responses on the Current Crisis

Joanna Cobley, David Gaimster, Stephanie So, Ken Gorbey, Ken Arnold, Dominique Poulot, Bruno Brulon Soares, Nuala Morse, Laura Osorio Sunnucks, María de las Mercedes Martínez Milantchí, Alberto Serrano, Erica Lehrer, Shelley Ruth Butler, Nicky Levell, Anthony Shelton, Da (Linda) Kong, and Mingyuan Jiang

Throughout human history, the spread of disease has closed borders, restricted civic movement, and fueled fear of the unknown; yet at the same time, it has helped build cultural resilience. On 11 March 2020 the World Health Organization (WHO) classified COVID-19 as a pandemic. The novel zoonotic disease, first reported to the WHO in December 2019, was no longer restricted to Wuhan or to China, as the highly contagious coronavirus had spread to more than 60 countries. The public health message to citizens everywhere was to save lives by staying home; the economic fallout stemming from this sudden rupture of services and the impact on people's well-being was mindboggling. Around the globe museums, galleries, and popular world heritage sites closed (). The Smithsonian Magazine reported that all 19 institutes, including the National Zoo and the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI), would be closed to the public on 14 March (). On the same day, New Zealand's borders closed, and the tourism industry, so reliant on international visitors, choked. Museums previously deemed safe havens of society and culture became petri dishes to avoid; local museums first removed toys from their cafés and children's spaces, then the museum doors closed and staff worked from home. In some cases, front-of-the-house staff were redeployed to support back-of-the-house staff with cataloguing and digitization projects. You could smell fear everywhere.

Open access

Sheila K. Hoffman

In the mid-1990s, when many museums were beginning to take their first hesitant steps toward building online personae, the worry still holding many back was that if a collection or experience were available online, in-person visitation would invariably decline (; ; ). In the 25 years since, that fear has largely been dispelled even as our technical ability to digitally capture and disseminate cultural collections has improved exponentially, even to the point that the online experience in some ways exceeds the in-person experience. Indeed, museums have moved far beyond the ability to show a few images of the major works in a collection, adding opportunities that mirror almost all the offerings of the in-person experience. But even this “Mona Lisa” effect has not driven in-person visitation down. Rather the opposite. Anyone who has elbowed through the crowds at many of the world's best-known museums can attest to that. Indeed, having been among this ubiquitous press of people, I could not help but think on such occasions that it would take an act of God to reduce the numbers and improve the quality of viewing.