Museums, Crisis and Covid19

This UKRI Rapid Response project focuses on how museums can contribute to community resilience and wellbeing in a time of crisis.

This UKRI Rapid Response project focuses on how museums can contribute to community resilience and wellbeing in a time of crisis.

It addresses sector adaptability as it adjusts audience engagement and collaboration (such as new collecting practices, programming and exhibitions) in response to Covid-19.

The differing responses during the Covid-19 crisis – in some museums staff were furloughed yet elsewhere they have been involved in responsive projects - uncovers deeper attitudes to the essential (or otherwise) nature of museum services. Going forward, this project will lead and inform the sector as it adapts to effective community-digital possibilities that still embraces new thinking in participation and engagement.

Alongside this, the project will evaluate how we adapt our practices to be mindful of audience diversity, digital poverty, and the isolation challenges for vulnerable audiences arising from Covid-19.


UK Researck and Innovation

This project is funded by UK Research and Innovation

Research Strands

  • Work Package 1: Pedagogy and Practices (Elizabeth Crooke and Tom Maguire)

    After a period of museum closure in the first part of 2020 and long-term social distancing likely to risk projects built around co-production with community partners, museums need to adapt to maintain relevance.

    Although expanding the digital platform is a means to connect audiences, these are only likely to have the desired outcomes if we also change our existing digital pedagogy. Swathes of text and images, often the outcome of digital heritage projects, don't encourage the porous, polyvocal and collaborative out-ward facing museum.

    Working with the sector, and drawing on examples of innovation, Crooke and Maguire are addressing the fundamentals of the museum-audience dynamic.

    They are exploring how museums can embrace new ways of collaborative practice during Covid-19 restrictions and how, post-Covid19, these new practices can enable greater outreach to multiple audiences. This will generate a deeper understanding of museum purposes and value at a time of crisis and beyond.

  • Work package 2: Digital Innovation and the Museum (Helen Jackson and Alan Hook)

    Covid-19 has brought the biggest change to working and living practices in our lifetime. We have demonstrated that we can rapidly adapt and although the changes have been dramatic, there are positive outcomes.

    Interim findings from the Heritage Fund Digital Attitudes and Skills for Heritage (DASH) survey identified 3 top priorities for the sector, arising from Covid-19: marketing and communications; creating content; and building/protecting links with community.

    By drawing on the expertise and experience of the CIs, in game design (Hook) and digital/blended learning (Jackson), this WP will identify new ways digital practice that can be adapted to current and new museum learning and community projects.

    Working with the sector, we will generate recommendations that are achievable locally, take account of digital poverty, and are nationally/internationally relevant.

  • Work Package 3: Museums and community resilience at a time of crisis (Philip McDermott and Breda Friel)

    The potential contribution of museums to community wellbeing is well established and recent oral history and documentation projects, responding to Covid-19, reveal the value of museums even in a crisis. For instance, the Tower Museum (Derry/Londonderry), Newry, Mourne and Down District Council, and the Irish Linen Centre and Lisburn Museum, have each launched contemporary collecting Covid-19 projects.

    This WP evaluates the initial outcomes/value of existing projects and explore new ideas with community stakeholders. Drawing on our network, and that of our partners, we propose working with local youth groups (Friel) and the ethnic community forums (McDermott) to explore and recommend how museums can adapt and enhance existing and new projects to contribute to community wellbeing and resilience.

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