Back in mid March, when museums in Europe and the US first closed their doors, many institutions got in touch to let us know about their digital initiatives. There were blog posts, new hashtags on social media, and virtual exhibition tours of varying quality. The speed with which cultural institutions responded to an unprecedented crisis was impressive but in most cases, as venues began to reopen over the summer months, these online projects faded out or were relegated to rarely visited corners of museum websites. The Morgan, Connected is a noteworthy exception.
A large part of the initiative’s success, it could be argued, is its simplicity. A new page was created on the Morgan’s website, which gathers together a number of online resources, and a new email marketing campaign was set up, which sends newsletters out to subscribers, highlighting different resources each week. Many of these were already available before the pandemic, part of the Morgan’s long-standing commitment to digital access – there are, for example, dozens of digitised facsimiles of books and manuscripts, which users can browse page by page. These are wonderfully representative of the library’s diverse holdings: from the Lindau Gospels, with its jewel-encrusted cover and magnificent illumination, to sketchbooks and notebooks by Degas, Manet and Cézanne. As Noreen Khalid Ahmad, director of communications and marketing at the Morgan, puts it: ‘What started as a response to the pandemic closures has become a way to re-engage with our archives.’
There have been innovations, too. In April the institution launched its live virtual programme, made up of tours and talks held by curators and docents on Zoom – so that people at home can interact directly with their on-screen guides (‘We’ve learned that we have a global audience, folks in their eighties can Zoom along just fine, and digital connections are authentic,’ Khalid Ahmad wrote on Instagram). And, alongside archives of material from past exhibitions and recorded talks at the Morgan, visitors will find the ‘Morganmobile’, a playful look at themed groupings of objects – such as ‘Sleep, Dream’ or ‘Beginnings’ – and ‘From the Vault’, a video series focusing on individual collection highlights. In a virtual landscape that is forever in flux, and can be overwhelmingly crowded, the Morgan’s responsive yet well-integrated strategy makes it a landmark destination.
Gabrielle Schwarz is web editor of Apollo.