The role of museums during the pandemic

One way that museums have been acknowledging the monumental impact of Covid-19 is through collecting the creative work that’s been made during this time. CR speaks to the institutions making it happen

The closure of galleries and museums during the pandemic has meant that many institutions have had to re-calibrate their purpose and find new ways of reaching people. For some, it’s meant an embracing of the digital, with virtual exhibitions and tours potentially becoming the way we will see shows in the future. For others, it’s been about contemplating how to remember this time in decades or centuries to come through the material and artifacts being created. Here CR speaks to two institutions who have been approaching the preservation of these objects in different ways: one that has been borne directly out of the pandemic, and the other that’s been cataloguing human creativity for nearly 170 years.

In a bid to record and encapsulate the national (or even international) mood, some institutions have put out open calls to gather the creative work that embodies this, such as the National Portrait Gallery in London which this month launched Hold Still, a community photography project to capture “the hopes, the fears and the feelings of the nation as we continue to deal with the coronavirus outbreak”. The project is an open call for submissions centering around the themes Helpers and Heroes; Your New Normal; and Acts of Kindness.

As well as existing institutions launching these kind of initiatives, projects such as the Covid Photo Museum in Amsterdam and the Covid Art Museum (CAM) based in Barcelona, Spain, have been started as a direct result of the pandemic, in the hope of creating an online archive of both the public mood, but also public creativity. 

Artwork by @erikaleesears from the Covid Art Museum