COVID19 as a Cultural Challenge for Museums - an International Survey

Concept for an Online Seminar at the University of Hildesheim,
Institut for Cultural Policy 2020

Foto (c) ZEITORT Jürgen Hohmuth

Museums are traditionally sheltered spaces for art; museums – under normal circumstances – offer the appropriate space to enter into a direct dialogue with original works of art, culture, nature, technology or history etc. In the meantime, most of the approximately 7,000 museums in Germany are using various social media channels in a more or less structured manner, based on a strategic brand-based communication concept; they are writing blogs or posting video recordings on the Internet.

The Challenge

With COVID-19, a new age is now dawning – overnight, so to say: The comprehensive medialization of exhibition contexts is now imminent. It is exciting to observe at what speed – what media, which visual language and dramaturgy – the media content is currently being produced.

We are in a time slice level “0”

A new era is beginning: For 2000 years, time in the Christian Occident has been measured according to “A.D.”. This traditional chronological orientation will now – in a global context – be joined by a new era: “w.C.”. (with Corona).

The traditional museum landscape is under considerable pressure to innovate – in view of the COVID19 crisis. Museums celebrated themselves as “places of originality”; as places where the aura of originality could be experienced. Museums are currently deprived of this unique selling point.  It is evident that museums are not considered systemically relevant in these times. Rather, they are perceived as places which, due to the accumulation of larger, anonymous groups of people, are more likely to be seen as a source of danger and must therefore be avoided.

  • What strategies are now being developed to transform the analogue, auratic content?
  • What new formats are being developed to ensure the visibility of art and culture in public (digital) space in the short term?
  • What new communication channels (media) and strategies are being used to continue to reach existing target groups and, if possible, to use the situation simultaneously to address new target groups?
  • But how can museums ensure their visibility and recognisability (brand) in the general communication stream in the long run, without being able to use their main medium (=exhibitions)

A Time Section Analysis – in International Comparison

Against this background, it makes sense to use this situation of crisis for a media analysis. Different media representations will appear on the market – but only a few will be able to establish themselves as successful formats in the long term.

One does not need a prophetic gift to predict that the sector of cross-medial/digital communication in particular will probably experience a boom in the near future.
There will be four different categories:

  • Explorer
  • Early Mover
  • Follower
  • Loser

The Structure of the Seminar

  • Web analysis of the media presence of selected museums – in different countries in comparison. Depending on the size of the seminar, the work is done in small groups or in individual research and documentation work
    – Classic web presence
    – Social media channels
    – Media platforms
  • Online survey of potential users – with the help of the SurveyMonkey tool
  • If possible: telephone or written survey of museum staff* on current experiences. A multiple choice questionnaire will be developed for this purpose.
  • Development of an accompanying communication campaign in the social media, in order to be able to attract participants for the study.