THE REACTION OF ITALIAN MUSEUMS TO COVID-19: SPREADING BEAUTY AND CULTURE ON THE WEB

Stefania Zardini Lacedelli

In these difficult days where precautions against the spread of Coronavirus have locked down Italy, many museums are making their voices heard loudly, on the web. Closed their doors, but not their vibrant energy of places of culture, which also and especially in moments of crisis, can help us to find positivity and beauty.

#aportechiuse (Behind closed doors), #laCulturaCura (the Culture Cares), #cronachedalmuseochiuso (Chronicles from the closed museum), #resistenzaculturale (Cultural Resistance), #salcechiusomanontroppo (Salce Museum closed but not too much) are just some of the hashtags that are spreading  online, and that are leading museum directors and curators to tell their collections and communicate with the public through the web. With all the digital means available today: direct streaming, videos shared on social media, weekly columns, thematic campaigns dedicated to the museum heritage. From the Pinacoteca di Brera to the Egyptian Museum of Turin, from the Salce Collection to the Archaeological Museum of Venice, and the Museums of the Dolomites: the museums virtually open their spaces and share stories, findings, curiosities, objects. A momentum that drives large and small museums, and is transmitted from city to city, region to region, valley to valley. In the time of Covid-19, museums continue to carry out their mission behind closed doors, but with their digital spaces opened: they enrich the mind, feed us with beauty, enchant. And by sharing culture, they spread trust, positiveness and playfulness, all ingredients that are more necessary than ever at a time like this. “We want to show – says James Bradburne, Director of the Pinacoteca di Brera in the video ‘Notes for a Cultural Resistance‘ – “that the heart of the city still beats. We fight this moment of panic, sadness, worry, we fight and we are here for the city, as a place of distraction, consolation, a place to help resist all the troubles we face now “.

And this is the answer of many museums in Northern Italy: the Archaeological Museum of Venice with its ‘Chronicles from a closed Museum’, the Egyptian Museum with virtual walks with the Director, the Salce Museum with the weekly column #salcechiusomanontroppo, the Museums of the Dolomites with the #DolomitesMuseum campaign.

But if this is an alternative way of experiencing culture, what are the museum spaces today? Are the web and social media ancillary channels that help the museum communicate its activities, or are they other spaces where culture can be spread in forms and ways other than traditional ones?

“A museum is not just its fixed objects – continues James Bradburne ‘We don’t always have to come, we can ‘offer’ the museum”. What can the museum offer us today?

Everything you would expect to find in a physical museum, and much more. The time has come to acknowledge it: the ‘museum’ is also everything that is developed outside its physical walls. Snapshots from the collection, thematic campaigns, online contests that foster to reinterpret objects and actively participate in the life of the museum: these are entirely new forms of culture which require time, energy and skills. If a museum has different ways of ‘being open’ the professionals involved in the development of these activities must grow accordingly. “You are used to visit only the public spaces of the museum – says Christian Greco, Director of the Egyptian Museum in the first post ‘Behind the closed doors’ – However, there is much more. There are many people who, even in these days, take care of the objects for you, carry on projects of restoration, undertake research, so that when we have the chance, we will be ready to welcome you again and tell you new stories. ” The more a museum grows in terms of human resources, the more its heart beats, and it keeps alive also the heart of the city and the territory in which it is located.

And so the hope is that this online momentum can continue even once the museums will open again: because we need them, especially now. We need their ability to stimulate thought, open the mind, transmit a complex perspective on the world. We need their innate propensity to include, to involve, to tell stories. We need their experience of preserving the past to help us imagine the future. They are our bulwarks of beauty. Not just in the days of the Coronavirus.