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COVID & the Arts: Virtual Museums

German American Heritage Center
Hedy Lamarr, by Moline artist Aimee Ford

Even though they've been closed during the pandemic, museums in the Quad Cities have tried to remain accessible by putting their exhibits and activities online.

Like much of the country, Quad-Cities museums have moved their programs online. Since they closed in March, Davenport’s Putnam Museum and Science Center, the Figge Art Museum, and the German 
American Heritage Center and Museum have boosted their web and social-media presence.

Putnam CEO Rachael Mullins talks about the new women’s suffrage exhibit, which opened March 7. She talks about it in this video.

"I think that the challenge is with reaching our audience during this time of closure really has brought also this new opportunity to connect with technology that we've not tapped into in the past."
The Putnam also has a wide variety of science experiments online, and there will be more videos connected to the exhibit "OMG! Elements of Surprise," which runs the rest of the year.

The shutdown came in the fourth month of Michelle Hargrave’s tenure as chief of the Figge, and before the closure, staff were busy adding materials to figgeartmuseum.org, and they continue to upload more content every day.

"We wanted to make sure we were addressing different needs and interests that people might have, and so that's the way we approached it. One was thinking about art in tours but we also have uploaded some videos of the curators discussing exhibitions, and there will some of me discussing specific highlights of works in the collection that will be uploaded as well."

The Virtual Museum includes many paintings from the collection, with text and audio description; videos about current exhibits; and activities for kids and families, such as videos on how to make your own art, and links to PBS, other museum sites, and educational resources.

The Figge also has a “Community Curated” virtual exhibit, for which residents of all ages have submitted their art, which is featured on the museum’s Facebook and Instagram pages. Hargrave said there’s been tremendous response, helping lead to a seven-fold increase in Facebook visits in the last month.

The German American Heritage Center created a virtual museum, to highlight its new “Power Frauen” exhibit on extraordinary German and German-American women. Opened in February, it features 17 artworks created by local female artists. Executive Director Kelly Lao says online, it includes the text and photo panels, audio, video, and the art.

 “We tried to bring in this exhibit through many different formats, so people can enjoy it from their home and get what they need from the art, the history, the inspiration of what might comfort them during this time."

Formerly the arts and entertainment reporter for The Dispatch/Rock Island Argus and Quad-City Times, Jonathan Turner now writes freelance for WVIK and QuadCities.com. He has experience writing for daily newspapers for 32 years and has expertise across a wide range of subject areas, including government, politics, education, the arts, economic development, historic preservation, business, and tourism. He loves writing about music and the arts, as well as a multitude of other topics including features on interesting people, places, and organizations. He has a passion for accompanying musicals, singers, choirs, and instrumentalists. He even wrote his own musical based on The Book of Job, which premiered at Playcrafters in 2010. He wrote a 175-page history book about downtown Davenport, which was published by The History Press in 2016. Turner was honored in 2009 to be among 24 arts journalists nationwide to take part in a 10-day fellowship offered by the National Endowment for the Arts in New York City on classical music and opera, based at Columbia University’s journalism school.
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