The global coronavirus crisis and digital tools bring art home more than ever before.

The coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak has had a great impact globally, with day-to-day consequences that are transforming practically all sectors in an effort to combat this disease. Countries around the world have had to adjust to this new reality and protect their people, while, at the same time, ensuring a short-term recovery.

The health crisis has also transformed the operation of art institutions, which have been forced to close their doors temporarily and learn how to deal with a drastic drop in income from ticket sales. Nobody currently has a crystal ball to foresee the post-pandemic fate of museums and their new modus operandi. Nevertheless, what does seem certain is that in the ‘new normalcy’ nothing will be like it used to be, at least in the upcoming months.

One of the most immediate consequences is that many cultural institutions will have to return the loaned artifacts without having been able to display them to the public through one of its best income generators: temporary exhibitions. That is why, in light of this current situation, many of these institutions have had to react rapidly in an effort to fulfil their role as a promoter of public, cultural, identity and social recognition purposes through the implementation of new ways of enjoying art from home, thus making it more accessible.

These new means of accessing museums and galleries will ensure that the general public will still be able to visit these art institution and the world heritage they store, albeit a digital format. This new worldwide scenario has caused these art institutions to reinvent themselves in order to ensure their commitment to their current and new publics in a more virtual way.

Virtual visits, a wide range of possibilities

Many museums have dedicated efforts and resources to the development of immersive experiences, not only within the building itself, but also through a virtual museum walkthrough at the comfort of the visitor’s home. Before the pandemia, the so-called virtual visits was an incentive for future tourism, through the partial display of some of the museum’s artifacts, in order to encourage people to visit the physical museum at a later date. However, the uncertainty of when and how activities will resume has forced these institutions to conform to the current challenges and concerns of their target audiences by also providing their contents digitally in order to ensure they can continue enjoying their priceless heritages at the comfort and safety of their homes in a timely fashion.

Museum of Islamic Arts, Qatar

Museo de Arte Islámico

This is the case of the Museum of Islamic Art (MIA), for which ACCIONA Producciones y Diseño (APD) designed and produced some temporary exhibitions, among them: The Hunt: Princely Pursuits in Islamic Lands, and Hajj, The Journey Through Art. The museum offers a comprehensive tour on Google Arts & Culture, allowing visitors to enjoy the complete exhibition on Qatar’s legacy.

National Museum of Qatar

National Museum of Qatar

Likewise, the archaeological heritage of the National Museum of Qatarcan be enjoyed online thanks to Google Arts & Culture. For the National Museum of Qatar, APD carried out the project management, design, production and commissioning of 149 audiovisual and interactive installations that offer visitors a unique and innovative experience by immersing themselves into the history, geography and culture of the country.

Sakip Sabanci Museum

Museo Sakip Sabanci

Another museum that allows visitors to enjoy its collection without leaving home is the Sakıp Sabancı Museum in Istanbul (Turkey), which has a permanent exhibition dedicated to Ottoman calligraphy,designed and produced by APD. Now this collection is accessible from anywhere around the world.

Digitization, 3D printing or virtual conferences: museums remain active

Never before has art been so close to people as it is today. Not surprisingly, museums and galleries long ago understood the importance of investigating more creative formulas to develop narratives around the interpretive process of art, beyond the mere exhibition of art works. Technology has also played a key role, thus enabling a fully interactive learning of the piece.

Spain’s National Archaeological Museum

This is the case of ambitious projects such as the 3D printing of the Romanesque Arch of San Pedro de las Dueñas (León), carried out by the Innovation area of ACCIONA in collaboration with ACCIONA Producciones y Diseño at the National Archaeological Museum in Spain (MAN). The replica, which rests in the gardens of the museum, stands out as the first architectural piece to be reproduced using 3D-printing in by additive system, layer by layer and whose original, from the homonymous monastery, is displayed inside the museum.

The museum remains accessible to visitors through Google Arts & Culture, its website and social networks. It offers everything from virtual and thematic tours to conferences, courses and seminars through its Youtube channel.

Museum of Archeology of Alicante

Museo Arqueológico de Alicante

Archeology has been one of the fields that has best adapted to this situation. Institutions such as the Museum of Archeology of Alicante (MARQ), is considered a benchmark in museology. Designed and produced by APD, it was recognized as the Best European Museum in 2004 for its innovative museology concept, which combines, in an impressive way, the display of original pieces with hyper-realistic recreations of archaeological excavations. Interactive devices and audiovisual productions complete the discourse and help contextualize the collection in their time, offering a fulfilled educational experience.

Since then, MARQ has maintained its innovative spirit thanks to the use of new technologies. Thus, their virtual visit have been developed in great technical detail and closely resemble the tour a visitor would experience inside the actual museum.

Since its doors closed to the public, the museum presents a broad digital activity so that visitors can discover the sites and monuments from a new perspective. Thematic workshops addressed to children and carried out by the staff from their homes, digital tales, the museum explained by their guides or the possibility to visit past, present and future exhibitions are some of the options being offered by MARQ from its website.

House of European History

Casa de la Historia Europea

Also the House of European History in Brussels (Belgium), which museographic design was carried out by APD in 2017, offers an intense virtual activity and organizes events and talks about specific topics of our recent history.

The necessary lockdown has caught all of us by surprise, changing our lives, -at least temporarily- and how we relate to the world. While trying to maintain our routines, we are discovering that there are new ways of enjoying leisure and culture without having to leavehome.

Sources: El País, The Guardian, ICOM