Museums in Delaware may be closed due to COVID-19, but museum lovers can still enjoy virtual tours to keep entertained during the governor’s stay-at-home order.
When it became clear the coronavirus pandemic was spreading in the local community, staff at the Delaware Contemporary art museum in Wilmington quickly came up with an action plan.
Knowing all non-essential businesses in Delaware would soon close, they quickly photographed and filmed all of their exhibitions over just a few days.
Now anyone can go to their website to see 360-degree views of installations and paintings in their galleries.
The Delaware Contemporary is just one museum in Delaware, and the world, reaching out to people looking for entertainment while stuck at home during coronavirus-related shutdowns.
“We want people to be in front of it—there’s more to see when you’re standing in front of an object; the scale of it, the texture of it, colors translate differently,” said Executive Director Leslie Shaffer. “But right now we think having any access to it is going to be very important, not just to our regular audience, but everybody.”
Each week, the Delaware Contemporary will release a new exhibit tour.
Currently, viewers can see “Malice’s Restaurant” by Natalie Hutchings, an installation that recreates a dining setting to explore how Americans view social constructs like institutionalized racism and patriarchal abuse.
“Look to the Land” by Mary Putman is a retrospective of paintings created over four decades that reflect the artist’s observations of landscapes and the significance of farming.
“We have studio artists that work in studios in our space, but because they’re attached to a museum of public institutions, they cannot access their space, so they’re not working,” Shaffer said.
“It’s put a hold on art productivity during this time. We have artists exhibiting right now whose work was only up about a week before the closure and will only be up for about another two weeks, so it limits that public access to their work and that access generates collectors for them and more exhibits for them.”
The museum also has educational and interactive art projects for kids on its website called Discover Color and Project C. The museum also will host two professional art contests on its Instagram account. The winner will win the opportunity to exhibit at the museum when it reopens.
Winterthur Museum also is offering virtual tours of its exhibits and the various rooms in the historic DuPont mansion. The Instagram and Facebook videos are about four minutes long, and include commentary by the museum’s curators who discuss the history of each room and its contents.
Winterthur’s new exhibit Re-Vision 20/20: Through a Woman’s Lens, which opened right before the closure, also will be featured on the museum’s social media accounts. The exhibit celebrates the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment, and exhibits objects in the galleries through the lens of women’s histories.
“We’re trying to illustrate how the museums aren’t warehouses,” said Matthew Mickletz, manager of preventive conservation.
“I think it’s important to keep our relevance as people are moving through this difficult time, especially when you look at the needs of children trying to accomplish their school work, and also to get some diversions from the everyday, which can get mundane and routine.”
He said the results of the social media videos have been touching.
“One individual watched our videos from Oslo, and said, ‘The next time I get to the United States, I would love to visit Winterthur…’ They were in quarantine after traveling, and seeing the video sparked something they didn’t have at that time,” Mickletz said.
Mt. Cuba Center
For those getting cabin fever, they can take a virtual stroll through Mt. Cuba Center’s outdoor nature center.
Viewers can go to Mt. Cuba’s website, click “virtual tour” and view colorful flowers and trees as if they’re right there in person. The video travels throughout the gardens at a slow, steady walking pace, providing images of spring blooms.
It provides a snapshot of what the 20-acre gardens look like mid-to-late April, featuring springtime horticulture like dogwood, cecelias and azaleas.
“We really want people to have the opportunity to experience the beauty that is Mt. Cuba. We know those kinds of visuals and spending time in nature are great ways to reduce stress during this time,” said Director of Horticulture George Coombs.
“I think the thing that sets Mt. Cuba apart is the robust planting of native plants. You’ll see a lot of blooms, and flowers and plants used in large masses in an informal setting inspired by nature, but it’s still very much a garden. That kind of aesthetic is soothing and serene to look at. It’s a very timely garden for what we’re going through right now.”
Mt Cuba’s Facebook page also includes images of the gardens in various seasons.
Virtual experiences for kids
Some museums in Delaware are offering virtual experiences for children. The Delaware Art Museum is shifting its “Story of Glory” events to Facebook Live every Friday at 10:30 a.m. The museum usually welcomes about 20 families each week during the event, where staff show children works of art and read a story related to the theme. Children also create art during the event.
During last week’s virtual “Story of Glory,” Amelia Wiggins read the children’s book “Do Pirates Take Baths?” by Kathy Tucker, and educated viewers on the painting “Marooned” by Howard Pyle. At the end of the video, Wiggins encouraged children to use their imaginations through an activity involving pretending to be pirates.
“I’m hoping kids will connect to a work of art while they’re not able to in the galleries,” said Wiggins, assistant director of learning and engagement. “All our programs are focused on promoting looking and learning using artwork as a resource, so even this virtual version can do that.”
The Delaware Children’s Museum also is providing various activities for kids to do at home, including arts and crafts, like “tape art” and “DIY ping-pong mazes,” which involves sticking household items to the wall and watching the ping-pong ball roll down the zig-zag maze.
“We’re hoping to bring some of the classroom learning we do in the museum and have them be able to replicate it at home so they can continue learning through play — where kids can have fun and play and be creative and use their imagination while learning something related to the STEAM activities we do at the museum,” said Marketing Manager Joe Valenti.