In the News

The 8 Essential Things Museums are Providing Right Now

We’re all in unique little bubbles at the moment, learning how to navigate this continually shifting stay-at-home environment. It’s impacted different people in very different ways. But one thing has been consistent from day one—in spite of their doors closing, the museums of the world have stepped up to fill the void. It was stunning to see the speed in which thousands of museums pivoted to bring valuable cultural opportunities to the homes of millions.

Behind the scenes, museum pros aren’t just working from home in meetings with their own teams. The cultural sector has been organizing cross-institutionally to achieve our missions. The goal is to be efficient in our collaborations with other museums, disperse new learnings and best practices, and amplify one another’s efforts as quickly as possible.

The result are eight essential elements that museums have provided us for weathering the storm, and impressive examples of new initiatives created in the past weeks to get us through.


With all of the uncertainty in our daily lives, bringing a sense of calm seemed the obvious choice for museums. Many are retreats to take a deep breath and spend time slow-looking at your favorite artwork. Others hold special memories or objects that bring you peace and calm. Enter #MuseumMomentofZen, one of the first cross-institutional hashtags to hit the ground running. It’s simple. Museums share a beautiful moment on their social channels and encourage you to relax.

@FieldMuseum on Twitter


To the general public, museum folk seem serious. We’re anything but. When your life revolves around fossilized poop, tying a bonnet, or mundane requests from contemporary artists, you must have a sense of humor. Many museum social media managers jumped at the chance to bring levity to the moment by sharing some of our more ludicrous scenarios. In Chicago, penguins need to stretch their legs at the Shedd. Then the Field’s T. rex got in on the action. (And the Adler followed with…Chris?)

But no one stole the world’s heart more than Tim, the National Cowboy Museum’s security guard. Left to his own devices, he was asked by “Seth in Marketing” (who is really Seth in Marketing) to share his experiences on the museum’s social channels. His pure-hearted efforts have us all sending him a “cheers” beer emoji. It also has an international audience excited to visit a museum they’ve never heard of thanks to a simple, well-executed idea.

@NGADC on Twitter


In the early days of quarantine, museums quickly began featuring existing virtual tours, 360-degree videos, and Google Arts and Culture partnerships to bring exhibits directly to our living rooms. The news media was quick to compile lists of these resources as a way to escape the day-to-day. But museum staff took it one step further, creating new, live tours on the spot or documenting behind-the-scenes moments. The Castello di Rivoli in Italy was an early example of a curator who went to great lengths to bring the cultural treasures of her institution to online audiences. In the US, the National Gallery of Art is doing extremely in-depth #MuseumFromHome tours of each gallery in order to keep a behemoth institution accessible for the public.

Carlos Museum on Facebook


Even as museums face furloughs and layoffs of their own, giving back is top of mind. With PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) shortages reaching crisis levels, museums around the world are sharing their materials. Beyond basic cleaning supplies, museums have something many companies don’t—conservation departments (and their impressive protective gear.) To take it one step further, museums are now organizing their own campaign to thank the health heroes who are on the frontlines of the crisis. #MuseumsThankHealthHeroes takes place April 1 at 11 a.m. ETD.

@tussenkunstenquarantaine on Instagram


For those who find themselves with more time while staying in, it’s the perfect opportunity to get creative. Museums have answered the call for all ages and across many mediums. For antsy kids, children’s museums are providing at-home DIY activities tied to art and science. Others have quickly turned freely available collections images into printable coloring pages—an easy way to relieve stress. The Rjiksmuseum discovered and shared a Dutch Instagram account with a genius Stay-at-Home Challenge: choose your favorite artwork, then recreate it with objects from around your home. The result will leave you amazed, laughing, and inspired.

The Children’s Museum on Facebook


The mission of nearly every museum is focused on learning. It only made sense to bring that learning online when the doors closed, if it wasn’t already. For those who already had e-learning resources, this meant updating the focus of their website to put these tools at parents’ and educators’ fingertips. The breadth and depth of online learning that’s possible through museum websites and social media is mind-boggling, you can “Spy From Home” with the International Spy Museum, go on a virtual spring break at the Museum of the American Revolution, or binge-watch  the Brain Scoop for an ample dose of natural science knowledge. The world’s largest children’s museum in Indianapolis, which includes a STEM Lab, paleontology lab, Chihuly sculpture, train, carousel, and a sports complex to-boot, is creating an impressive amount of new educational resources with their staff experts and sharing them on their social channels.


A screenshot of a Tweet from the MERL featuring their challenge to join the #AniMERLCrossing campaign

@TheMERL on Twitter


Museums are stepping up to remedy the feelings of isolation that come with social distancing by creating unique ways to connect us. In online spaces, museum staff are cleverly tying their missions and collections to familiar activities for digital audiences. In one example, President Lincoln’s Cottage is hosting a Virtual Game Night for families (the first one sold out in a couple of hours!) The MERL (Museum of English Rural Life), known for always being a step ahead of the latest meme, has found its niche with the popular Animal Crossing gaming community. Within the game, users can intricately design their own smocks, which is a direct tie to the MERL’s collection. And so, #AniMERLCrossing was born.

@NYHistory on Twitter



Above all else, what the museum technology and museum social media communities do best is collaborate. And boy have we been. We’ve been out-ed before for our “secret society of museum social media managers” that must exist somewhere (shhhh…). This community is churning out the campaigns, for sure. From #MuseumAlphabet to #MuseumBouquet, we’re banding together to amplify content across our institutions–small and large–in ways that resonate with audiences. Likely the most logistically ambitious, #MuseumGames is a broader hashtag with a uniquely interactive campaign embedded within it—a weekly Sunday cross-institutional crossword puzzle.

Sorry, not sorry. I have two…



Participate and amplify

Join in the virtual conversations and activities. Share the content with others. Engagement numbers matter now to us more than ever. A Facebook “Share”, a Twitter “RT”, a Blog shoutout all are important forms of support.

Keep your membership

It’s understandable that everyone is pinching pennies. Museums are too, and thousands in the cultural sector are losing their jobs as well. At the very least, you can support us by not cancelling your membership. The dollars matter. But also, the morale that comes from the additional member family on our roster matters. Your support is more valuable now than at any other time.

Help us advocate

We were lucky that museums were included in the recent economic relief legislation. It took tireless effort from our professional networks and support systems to ensure this, and it won’t be the last time we’ll need support. Help us advocate at every opportunity. We rally around AAM’s advocacy initiatives.

Donate if you can

If you are comfortable doing so at this time, donations to your community museum will go far in making an impact…not only in the lives of the staff whose jobs you’ll save, but in the programs that you’ll be continuing to support.


The Ultimate Guide to Virtual Museum Resources, E-Learning, and Online Collections


In the blink of an eye, once-crowded museums sit empty. We’re preparing ourselves for social distancing and potential quarantine. This is the time for museum technology to step up and fill the void. The potential of online collections, virtual tours, and social media campaigns have always been there, but now the opportunity for impact is incalculable.

Access to endless open content. Educational resources for e-learning. Virtual retreats to art, culture, and history around the globe. This is the museum technology community’s time to shine!

If you’re a museum tech enthusiast looking to be part of the conversation, join one of MCN’s Special Interest Groups (SIGs). They are currently free for non-members so more can share resources during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This list will be continually updated with examples of museum and museum-adjacent virtual awesomeness. It is by no means exhaustive. If you have a virtual museum or museum-adjacent resource to contribute on behalf of your organization, please fill out this Google Form.

Every resource is free to access and enjoy.
Much of it, though not all, is also open content, in the sense that it’s freely reusable and re-mixable under Creative Commons licensing. Open content is clearly labeled on its respective website.


Image: V21 Artspace


Art and Culture Museums
History Museums
Natural Science Museums
National Parks

Online Exhibits


Created for Kids


Art and Cultural Collections
Science Collections
History Collections


Huge thanks to the many who have written helpful blogs with their favorite museum tech resources. Your contributions are all included here: Cuseum, Mia Ridge, Jenni Fuchs, and Alicja Peszkowska.


Articles on COVID’s Impact on Museums

Looking to the past, seeing the future: MCN 1968

This #MCN50 post brought to you by Charles Zange


A year after its founding, MCN hosted its first major conference: “A Conference on Computers and their Potential Applications in Museums.” The Metropolitan Museum of Art hosted the event, which was supported by a grant from IBM. Over three days in April, participants came together to discuss the future of technology and in so doing laid a foundation for decades of collaboration.

The attendee list was small. A total of 27 speakers signed up, most from New York but a few others joined from Oklahoma, California, Illinois, Massachusetts, and Toronto. Registration took place on Monday from 11:00-12:00. Sessions began that afternoon one at a time and continued through Wednesday. The Junior Museum Snack Bar was reserved for participants to take lunch. The conference concluded with dinner at the Met’s main restaurant.

Compared purely with the scope and scale of #MCN2016 in New Orleans, #MCN1968 was a minor affair: no parallel session tracks, no grand ballrooms, and no complimentary breakfast. The schedule was printed on plain paper with neither advertisement nor graphic. The san-serif font is black and white. Yet even at its small dimensions, #MCN1968 laid the foundation for many common elements of today’s conferences.

For example:

– “Demonstrations and Films of Computer Hardware and Applications.” Tuesday, 2:00-5:00PM – This precursor to the Exhibitor Hall provided a space for IBM to install and demonstrate technology for museum application. (The stars of the show were “Displays of visual equipment for microfilm and microfiche.)”

– “Documentary Applications.” Monday 1:30-5:00PM – Presenters were considering the best ways to create, organize, and analyze computerized records of collections systems – an ongoing need in collections management.

– “New Approaches in Museum Education.” Wednesday, 3:00-5:00PM – Attendees in this session responded to a presentation on “The Future of the Museum as a Learning Environment,” approaching a question that continues to face educators today.

The no-frills #MCN1968 experience calls back to the essence of the gathering itself: even from the beginning, MCN has always been an experimental mix of thought leaders and technology. It will be exciting to see where this energy can lead this year at #MCN50!

Below is the full schedule from #MCN1968. What was your first MCN conference? Let us know in the comments.



Albright-Knox Art Gallery appoints new Director of Education & Community Engagement

jennifer-foleyThe Albright-Knox Art Gallery announced that Dr. Jennifer Foley has been appointed to the position of Director of Education and Community Engagement.

Dr. Foley brings a wealth of experience to the museum, having served in a number of key roles at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, the Humanities Council of Washington, DC, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Most recently, she held the position of Director of Interpretation at the Cleveland Museum of Art, where she managed the development of digital interpretive materials and multimedia content and oversaw the department’s myriad programming activities.

Jennifer is also a member of the #MCN2016 Program Planning Committee, congrats Jennifer!



How museums learned to stop worrying and love the digital world

“How about a selfie with the Oracle of Delphi? Museums are targeting new audiences by embracing all forms of digital media.”

This article in the Star Tribune by Kirstin Tillotson quotes MCN Past President Douglas Hegley and highlights the work of current MCN Board member, Jane Alexander and MCN President Loic Tallon. Leave a comment below with your thoughts on the article!


Illustration by Rob Dobi / Special to the Star Tribune




Free use images in Museums


“Often when people visit museums, they leave wishing they could see a certain piece of art every day. Yale University’s art museums are making that easier.

Want Van Gogh’s “The Night Cafe,” owned by Yale University Art Gallery, as your desktop wallpaper? Download a high-res TIFF at Want to post on your blog that J.M.W. Turner you saw at Yale Center for British Art? Download a TIFF at

On those websites, anyone is welcome to download public-domain artworks free of charge and use them any way they want, even if that usage is for-profit, such as the publication of a book.”

Click on the image to read this article recently published by the Hartford Courant with quotes from MCN Executive Director, Eric Longo as well as Intellectual Property SIG Chairs Melissa Fournier and John ffrench about free use images.

Screen Shot 2016-02-22 at 8.24.20 AM




AMA on Museums and Technology

Join past board member, Ed Rodley, past SIG Chair Emily Lytle-Painter and Michael Peter Edson for a Reddit AMA on Museums and Technology.

Click the image to view the archived conversation.Screen Shot 2016-02-22 at 8.25.26 AM


Technology in Museums – Museums + Heritage Advisor

MCN Executive Director, Eric Longo quoted in the below article:

“Digital technologies have radically transformed how we connect with each other, how we relate to the world, and how we conduct business,” says Longo. “We constantly use digital tools to perform daily tasks at home and at work. Not only do museums and cultural heritage sites not have a choice in whether or not to embrace this ‘new normal’, they owe it to the communities they serve to meet and engage them in a digital context.”

Technology in Museums: making the latest advances work for our cultural institutions