As the Corona virus spreads all over the world, some of the worst-hit countries have taken some drastic measures to reduce the risks of the virus spreading even further. One of the measures including shutting down venues that attracted large amounts of visitors. As the virus spreads around the world, infecting more than 89,000 people globally, major tourist attractions and events that draw visitors from all over the globe are feeling its effects. Asia’s Disneland themed parks were closed, whilst events such as Japan’s popular cherry blossom festivals were canceled over virus fears.
Museums in Milan, Venice and northern Italy were also closed temporarily. One of my favourite museums in Italy the Museo Egizzio closed its doors to the public on the 24th February. Following more than 100 confirmed cases of coronavirus in France the Louvre on the 1st of March announced that due to the “public health situation linked to Covid-19 prevention measures” it would remain closed. China’s museums have been forced to close temporarily.
The Mori Art Museum, National Museum of Modern Art and the Kyoto National Museum are amongst the Japanese museums affected by the closure. In South Korea, the National Museum of Korea and the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art are among the country’s national institutions closed until further notice.
As museums are forced to refuse visitors the need to become more accessible online is highlighted. Whilst a real biological virus can’t be transmitted online, some of China’s museum attractions have begun to migrate into the digital realm. China’s National Cultural Heritage Administration (NCHA) has asked museums to stay active on social media and offer their services digitally. Several museums and galleries in China have harnessed modern technology to keep their doors open to the public — in a virtual sense, at least. Hundreds of galleries and exhibitions are being put online as museums rush to put virtual tours of their venues online. it is interesting to note that Chinese authorities responsible for culture said that now more than ever museums played a positive role in spreading knowledge, interpreting culture and helping to lift spirits.
Online tours are replacing physical ones. One such example is Beijing’s National Museum latest exhibition, called ‘The Journey Back Home: An Exhibition of Chinese Artifacts Repatriated from Italy’. The exhibition has been curated carefully and showcased online as an entire visitor experience in its own right. The virtual tour is available now so that visitors can view the complete exhibition, even allowing them to zoom into the exhibits to obtain extremely detailed views. All of the show’s labels have been digitized, too. What’s more, they are available in multiple languages. Many other institutions have also created their own versions of virtual tours, allowing would-be attendees to progress through their exhibition spaces and galleries freely.
The COVID-19 virus has forced the temporary shutdown of museums, schools, libraries and other heritage sites all over the world. Yet this unprecedented occurrence offers an occasion for us to reflect on the connected world we live in. Digital technology can truly facilitate cultural and intellectual exchange around the world.