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News & Press: Capacity Building

The Case for Online Content

Tuesday, May 12, 2020   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Stephanie Statz
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The governor of Utah issued the Stay at Home Directive on March 27, 2020 to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. As a result, Utah museums quickly began to rethink how to interact with their communities.  In response to the COVID-19 pandemic museums from across the world rapidly switched focus from public events and traditional exhibitions to online content - using unique tools at their disposal to provide educational and entertaining online content to support their communities.

 

Here are just a few examples from across the state. The Springville Museum of Art encouraged visitors to recreate their favorite artworks from the collection and post on Instagram. The BYU Museum of Art offered yoga via Facebook Livestream. Thanksgiving Point allowed the public to view their annual Tulip Festival virtually and even posted a DIY video so fans could make the traditional Tulip Julep at home while they viewed. The Park City Museum highlighted online content on their website about Dr. LeCompte who was influential in putting the community under quarantine to combat the Spanish Flu outbreak in 1918.  There are many more - share your favorites in the comments below or in the UMA Facebook group

 

In the past, the purpose of online content has often been to bring visitors through the museum's physical front doors. Now museums are producing content to connect with communities unable to visit their physical spaces. This content is being used by parents to supplement school-from-home curriculum, providing connection for high risk community members unable to leave their homes, and offering a refreshing way to recharge during the pandemic. While no one is enthusiastic about the circumstances we currently find ourselves in, there can be long-term benefits gained from what museums are learning about online content that can be leveraged to help museums of any size to connect with their communities and raise funds to fulfill their missions. 

 

Going forward, museums that have chosen to increase online content will find additional opportunities to connect with a wider audience and increase accessibility. We all look forward to welcoming the public back into our spaces but the reality is that there always has been and will be a portion of our audience that is not able to attend in person for medical or distance reasons. The increase of online content will expand our audiences now and into the future. In the future, it will likely become common to report on both onsite and online reach. For many museums, this has the potential to double their audiences. 

 

Museums, with little online content, can utilize a plethora of online tools and examples currently available to begin building thoughtful, relevant content that can attract broader audiences from across the globe. This expanded reach will be an important statistic to track as museums continue to show the value of their mission in an increasing challenging fundraising climate. And with increased online presence, museums must not forget to give visitors the opportunity to support their organization - make your donation button visible and the process as painless as possible. Even small amounts will add up over time. 

 

With these thoughts in mind, here is a short list of tools & tips for quickly creating digital content for your museum or historical site. 

 

Podcasts

 

Google Earth Tours

Google Earth Tours are a great way to map your storytelling especially for history museums. Consider combining a Google Earth Tour with Virtual Reality equipment for a very fun way to learn history.

 

Online Historic Tours

Create and link a walking tour for your city or site to your website so visitors can utilize them on their own schedule. Make sure to provide a downloadable PDF version for those without cell signal or wi-fi while on your tour path. You may also want to include Pokémon stops.

 

Creating Online Exhibitions  

Curating an online exhibition uses many of the same principles of design and education as a traditional exhibition.  Using a different medium can be a blessing or a burden.  A wide variety of solutions exist for creating an online exhibit to meet the resources you already have available.  When selecting the tools you will use, please consider the following:

  • Life cycle of your exhibition – Don’t make your website an orphan.  Can you commit to supporting and hosting it for a decade?  Will you only support it for one year? Either is fine - just be sure to communicate your plans.
  • Your existing skills – How much support do you need in learning to use software?  Do you need extensive tutorials?  Are you accustomed to figuring it out on your own?  If you need tutorials and support, use products created for online exhibits. 

A long-trusted source of leadership in digital humanities, Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media, developed Omeka to help create online exhibits.  It is a great alternative for smaller historical museums and preservation sites.  There is plenty of assistance to help you work your way through the process. 


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