NEW DELHI, Apr 5: Museums and art galleries may be physically closed in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, but the virtual doors of many cultural sites in the country are wide open for visitors, thanks to technology.
From using 360-degree panoramic views for virtual tours to holding online thematic sessions, among other activities, art and heritage is being ‘brought to the doorsteps’ of people who are confined in their homes due to a 21-day nationwide lockdown since March 25.
Those offering virtual tours include the iconic 19th century landmark Dr Bhau Daji Lad (BDL) Museum (earlier Victoria and Albert Museum) in Mumbai; National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi; and other cultural sites, all of which have been temporarily shut.
“While the Museum’s doors are temporarily shut to visitors, you can still access the highlights of our collections & 11 virtual exhibits via the BDL Museum’s page on @googleartsandculture!” said a post on the Facebook page of the museum, with hashtags “#BDLMuseum #BDLOnline #cultureinquarantine”.
“Do follow us on our Instagram and Twitter handles for weekly trivia and themed virtual tours of the collection! Handle: @bdlmuseum,” it said.
The post also carried a virtual tour of the main gallery of the museum showcasing the beautiful ironwork and embellished walls and ceilings in the room.
Dating back to second half of the 19th century, the museum located in Byculla area of Mumbai is a treasure trove and one of the most visited museums in the country.
In Amritsar, the Partition Museum housed in the colonial-era Town Hall Building is urging people online to enjoy “MuseumsFromHome” while the country remains under lockdown to fight the COVID-19 outbreak through social distancing.
“Explore our exhibition ‘The Railways and Partition’ on Google Arts & Culture! This exhibition delves into the vital role the railways had to play during the Partition. Trains were one of the most common modes of transport, and it is estimated that at the time of Partition close to 700,000 refugees travelled by train between 15 August 1947 and 8 September 1947 alone,” the museum authorities said in a note posted on Facebook.
They also shared a link for virtual visitors to access this “exclusively designed exhibition” which highlights first-hand accounts of migration via train, documents related to the railways, and newspaper articles.
The Partition Museum, the one-of-its-kind in the country, is also holding thematic sessions to encourage people to remain connected to it through digital medium.
Authorities at several of these cultural sites said technology can help bring museums and galleries virtually to people if they cannot come, and idea is to make them stay connected to their cultural sites and heritage in this difficult time.
The National Gallery of Modern Art last month published a notice on its Facebook page, saying due to the threat posed by the novel coronavirus (COVID-2019) which has been declared a pandemic by the WHO and following the advice of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, the Museum and Library is closed for public access till further order.
“On the eve of 66th Foundation Day (29.03.2020), NGMA presents Virtual Tour of its permanent collection for the visitors to enjoy without even physically coming down to the location these days. NGMA wishes to all a healthy and prosperous life ahead,” it said.
Vietnam Tourism, shut due to lockdown in that country, too wooed travellers to “virtually visit” the iconic sites of the country through high-quality interactive digital images.
“Transport yourself through your screen to the Hue Citadel, one of Vietnam’s most impressive heritage attractions, in this 360-degree panorama. The citadel was the home of the Nguyen Dynasty Kings, who once ruled all of Vietnam from the former capital of Hue. Today it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and an amazing place to visit,” Vietnam Timeless Charm, the official page of Vietnam Tourism, said in a Facebook post.
National Museum in Delhi is also conducting sessions online.
“Join us for a LIVE session of storytelling with @ushachhabra. We will go live tomorrow (Monday) & day after (Tuesday) at 4:00 pm. NM’s ‘Stories from home’ sessions can be enjoyed by all ages and these stores are inspired by our collection! We would live streaming on both Instagram and Facebook,” it said in a social media post.
UNESCO and Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sanghralaya (CSMVS), Mumbai, are also using culture-themed memes to encourage people to get the message of staying home, with a sense of humour.
The UNESCO Twitter handle recently posted two images, first of the iconic Mona Lisa, and the other juxtaposed with just a frame without her, with a tagline “The Mona Lisa is staying at home, and you?”
CSMVS Facebook page has put up two old paintings to depict contrasting images of friendship before and after the social distancing norms were announced. (PTI)