Two veteran curators discuss how museums might adapt to a post-COVID-19 scenario and be relevant to Generation Alpha

As COVID-19 loosens its grip over nations, museums and artwork galleries are step by step and cautiously awakening to a new actuality. To perceive how these locations, that are custodians of relics of our previous, current and, maybe, future, want to adapt to the brand new scenario and nonetheless be relevant, MetroPlus speaks to two eminent museumologists, Deepthi Sasidharan and George Jacob. Both are curators and on the forefront of building and revitalising museums to give them delight of place in a post-pandemic world.

Deepthi is among the two founder-directors of Delhi-based Eka Archiving Services, which has arrange themed museums throughout India, whereas India-born George is president and CEO, Bay Ecotarium in San Francisco, and serves on the Board of Directors of the International Council of Museums within the U.S.

Deepthi Sasidharan, co-founder and director of Eka Archiving Services
| Photo Credit:
G Ramakrishna

Even whereas Eka is observing Museum Week with a sequence of on-line actions, Deepthi factors out that we’re removed from being on the stage of the “aftermath of the pandemic.” “Museums, much like people, will need time to understand and absorb this cataclysmic year and we are only at the beginning. Museums must look ahead at how they can continue to share the wealth of artefacts and knowledge they house with the world outside. There is already a virtual museum called the Museum of Covid, and archives around the world are already collecting physical objects that represent the pandemic! So yes, museums must continue to carry on the important work they do much like all other institutions of learning and enjoyment,” she says.

George factors out that museums, aquariums, science centres and different locations of augmented studying are unmasking new means, strategies and metrics to adapt to the brand new scenario. In the case of museums in India, George provides that one should realise that now we have a heritage and a subtle civilisation not like some other.

George is president and CEO, Bay Ecotarium in San Francisco and serves on the Board of Directors of the International Council of Museums in the US

George is president and CEO, Bay Ecotarium in San Francisco and serves on the Board of Directors of the International Council of Museums within the US
| Photo Credit:
special arrangement

“It is imperative that the young generation takes pride in our heritage and is invested in our future by nurturing the past. Active engagement and collaboration between schools and museum outreach programmes can pivot fundamental shifts in the perception that museums are actually non-formal learning institutions and compliment the classroom-based education.”

The means ahead

Deepthi feels that altering to what the audiences count on and new methods and strategies of studying are the way in which ahead for the museums. “Children and younger adults today learn differently — it’s a digital, sporty, interactive world that they inhabit in their schools and homes and definitely one with a heavy leaning towards digital screens and technology. The museums must change instead to become more sensitive and inclusive. Toilets that cater to children, feeding rooms, facilities to charge phones and so on have become necessary. Look at all the other community places they inhabit — malls, cinemas, gaming zones and airports and compare how these places attempt to make youngsters comfortable and we can begin to understand what needs to be done,” she explains.

A brand new chapter

  • George has written a ebook Museum Futures: The Corona Conundrum on the challenges museums can have to deal with as soon as the lockdown eases. George’s tackle the ebook:
  • “This is the ninth ebook in a sequence centered on the way forward for museums titled ‘Museum Futures: The Corona Conundrum’. As we ushered within the New Year in 2020, nobody may think about how dramatically the world would come to a grinding halt inside a matter of weeks. Sweeping modifications of interplay, neighborhood engagement and conversations migrated quickly to the Internet and the ecosystem of Internet of Things (IoT) at an unprecedented tempo. As the kinks in effectivity fashions, heuristics and haptics get extra subtle, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Emotional AI driven-world of Alexa and Siri surrogates turns into exponentially omniscient and all-powerful. The ebook takes a sweeping overview of remotely accessing experiential human interplay and builds a scenario of alt-options and adaptive innovation stemming from societal quarantine. It argues that the time for reactive measures should be changed with pro-active strategies of progressive change, even because it re-defines museums as evolving dynamic souls of civil societies.

In the age of social distancing and hand-washing, will digital excursions change into the norm? “For now, because the pandemic rages, the digital mediums can have to suffice. But given a selection, nothing can take away the gasp of marvel that escapes if you come face to face with a masterpiece. So, objects should be seen and digital mediums should do all they’ll to construct bridges and deepen understanding,” asserts Deepthi.

Accredited museums world-wide adhere to primary requirements of conservation, preservation, show and relative humidity, each in galleries and storage archives, observes George. At the core of what a museum gives is a bodily interplay with its collections. While there is no such thing as a substitute for the fabric and the true, experiential thresholds are shifting to the digital realm, particularly within the extra tech-savvy West, he explains.

“With social distancing, museums will experience thinning of visitors. While some are shifting the focus to online learning modules, virtual classrooms, gallery visits and live cams, others are exploring touch-points of monetisation, cyber-curation and artificial intelligence-induced experiences, transcending the conventional boundaries in sync with ‘Generation Alpha — the “screenagers” who haven’t skilled a world with out cellular screens,” says George.

Staying relevant

Moving on to the query of accessibility of museums, he agrees that there was a time of elitism in museums — each with their imposing structure and lodging of high-art and tradition. However, George elaborates that at current, the success of museums is attributed instantly to its relevance to the stakeholders and communities it seeks to serve.

“From traditional museums that focused on art, history, culture, natural science and anthropology, new museums are addressing topics of popular culture ranging from fashion, culinary arts, wine-making, insects, philately, astronomy and design. Idea-based museums are embracing powerful subjects like human rights, philosophy, poetry and slavery, to cite a few. Popular themes combined with outreach and workshops are opening the doors to a wider demographic even as they invite volunteers and docents to be part of a sustained effort to engage,” he says.

Deepthi too echoes George’s sentiments on how museums have change into accessible to all. “If you go to any of the memorials like Gandhi smaraks or the Indira Gandhi Memorial Museum, it is the humblest of travellers who find their way there,” she emphasises.

Regarding outreach programmes, Deepthi believes it’ll depend upon the kind of museum and the gathering however she asserts that collaboration may be very a lot the way in which ahead. Both the curators agree that paucity of sustained funding is a main stumbling block for museums. “With dwindling resources in the post-pandemic months and jobs being slashed, cultural institutions must pool resources, ideas and platforms to take their cause further,” she says.

Cultural ambassadors

Moreover, George says that since museums function cultural ambassadors for political, strategic and a vary of neighborhood advantages, governments should provide tax incentives to donors who assist the museums. “Such an investment in the non-profit sector of contemporary museums has the potential for strengthening our social fabric and triggering the need for infrastructural development, offering new destinations for domestic and foreign tourists. Once the existential crises are averted, there are many ways museums can engage diverse audiences. Depending on the content and curatorial emphasis of museums, they could pursue programmes, publications and mission-aligned projects to remain relevant. Side-walk art, graffiti contests, films, lectures, events, competitions, sponsored raffles, art and science fairs, auctions, field trips, gift-shops, and working with companies that uphold sustainable development goals as part of their corporate social responsibility, all lead to higher visibility and public engagement,” explains George.

THe book written by museumologist George Jacob

Accessibility requirements

Reacting to a level raised by visually challenged activist Tiffany Brar, who spoke about how most museums in India are usually not disabled-friendly, each George and Deepthi say India wants a complete museum coverage that addresses accessibility requirements. George believes that making it a obligatory requirement will information the development of latest museums, whereas the older establishments ought to start with a minimal of 4 measures — disabled-compliant rest-rooms, entry ramps for wheel chairs, audio information and Braille-guided materials. “This would be a good starting point, though there is much more that needs to be done,” he provides.

“I think we have to work towards sensitisation of people towards being aware of differently-abled people, their rights and expectations. If museums are inclusive, and provide access to the differently-abled, we open up the space for their enjoyment as well. Workshops that cater to school children can easily be tweaked to accommodate differently-abled audiences. Also involve representatives like Tiffany Brar in planning forums,” says Deepthi.

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