The global health crisis has pushed tourist attraction destinations and cultural venues across the world to rethink how they engage with their visitors, said a museums expert.
Manal Ataya, Director-General of Sharjah Museums Authority (SMA) made the comments during a three-day online conference ‘VExpo’, which kicked off on October 13 and was organised by blooloop.com, an online networking portal for professionals working in the visitor attraction sector.
During her participation, Ataya pointed out how losing the physical space, although temporarily, made exploring the digital space a virtue of necessity.
“Covid-19 opened our eyes to the possibilities of what was already there to be utilised but was ignored to a large extent, because we relied on our physical spaces.”
"The pandemic has really helped us move forward in terms of expanding our digital platform and opening up to new audiences," Ataya said.
She noted that following the closure of its museums in March, the Authority had launched a number of virtual exhibition tours, lectures and workshops to stay connected with its fan base.
Among the virtual tours launched by the Authority is "Modern and Contemporary Arab Art Collection exhibition"; the permanent Arab art collection of the Sharjah Art Museum; "A Century in Flux: Chapter II – Highlights from the Barjeel Art Foundation" exhibition, and "Aida Muluneh’s Homebound: A Journey in Photography” exhibition, a collaboration between The Africa Institute, Sharjah Art Foundation and Sharjah Museums Authority.
SMA is also showcasing over 100 pieces from Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilization’s collections, on ‘Museums With No Frontiers’ website, along with other curated collections from around the world, she said.
She added that in addition to its virtual tours, SMA brings its audiences a series of monthly online lectures and workshops that cater to all community members, covering a wide range of topics, including art, science and history.
The Covid-19 shut down has resulted in an influx of new and repeat visitors, and made it possible for the museums to reach new audiences with an 80 percent increase in online users.
“By making museums’ collections available and accessible online for all people across the world without the need of actually being physically present in a museum, we encouraged more visitors to enjoy our digitalised collection, exhibitions and educational programs and feel safe at the same time during this pandemic,” she said.
During the event, Ataya was also honored at a ceremony for being chosen to the top “50 museum influencer list” from nominations received internationally.
Other speakers at the virtual event included officials from the Cleveland Museum of Art; The Museum of London; the Van Gogh Museum; and The Royal Academy.