How Museums Are Responding to COVID-19
No doubt it's been a challenging year for cultural venues large and small. An estimated 30% of museums closed during the pandemic with an average 35% loss in annual operating income.
But somehow, many have managed to continue their programs through creative, long-distance learning and a focus on multilingual visitors within their community.
In a recent Engage by Cell webinar, CEO Dave Asheim interviewed Will Lach, Director of Sales with Eriksen Translations, who shared some interesting trends coming from cultural venues during the coronavirus pandemic.
Now in its 35th year, Eriksen Translations not only provides translation services in more than 100 languages, but also helps organizations with live zoom captioning, typesetting, and audio recording. With clients ranging from the Metropolitan Museum of Art to the Getty, from the Art Institute of Chicago to the MFA Houston, Eriksen works with all kinds of institutions.
Whether it’s reaching out to visitors through video, converting audio tours into podcasts, or providing DIY art kits, cultural venues all over the country have kept the flames of engagement going during the pandemic.
When the pandemic hit, the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston established a food pantry onsite. Along with food distribution, the museum provided art kits (including supplies) inspired by artists including Adobo Fish Sauce, Porsha Olayiwola, and Mark Dion as well as dancer Ellice Patterson. These kits, available in English and Spanish, were distributed to more than 1,200 Boston school children.
Hosted on LACMA’s YouTube channel, this cultural venue created a series of videos called LACMA Make Art at Home. With more than 30 videos to date, art educators demonstrate everything from making a flipbook to a collage to painting your portrait. As multilingual and interesting as LA itself, the videos were translated into Japanese, Armenian, Farsi, Spanish, simplified Chinese, Russian, and Korean.
Within the grounds of Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park, six historic houses known as the “Park Charms” have been closed to visitors during the pandemic. Pre-pandemic, house tours were led by guides dressed in historical period clothing. With doors closed, Fairmount Park’s Public Programs Coordinator John Sigmund created a mobile audio tour for the Woodford Mansion. Simply by dialing a phone number, visitors can listen to stories that a curator or docent would have shared. The audio tour also features a feedback line where visitors can leave their own stories of Fairmount Park.
Located on 500 acres in New York’s Hudson Valley, Storm King Art Center features amazing large-scale sculptures by artists Mark di Suvero, Louise Bourgeois, Alice Aycock and many others. While attendance declined during the pandemic, usage of Storm King's smartphone tour surged with more than 25,000 users accessing the mobile platform. Promoted on their website and through social media channels, Storm King advertised that visitors could access content from their smartphone anytime, anywhere.
How easy is it to set these things up?
In regards to Engage by Cell’s mobile services, whether it’s a smartphone tour, audio guide, augmented reality, digital membership cards, or our wayfinding tool, the GPS Mapper, much of our self-serve technology can be turned on within a few days.
“For straight up translation, projects are evaluated on so many thousands of words a day. Quality is very important too. For all of our translations, there are two native speaking subject matter experts. We also encourage institutions to have reviewers proofread the content so before it gets launched, the end product is perfect. Does it take months? It could, but it doesn't have to. It could take weeks.”
—Will Lach, Director of Sales, Eriksen Translations Inc.
Hope on the Horizon
Cultural venues have inspired the nation as they soldier on to engage the public. With the rise in covid vaccinations, more and more cultural venues are announcing reopening plans. While we all wait in anticipation for in-person visits, the pandemic has revealed that people will still support a closed venue. As a result, many institutions will continue to create digital content for virtual visitors, open or closed.