By Sara Ruberg
CINCINNATI, OH–The only way to visit Cincinnati Art Museum today is through a computer.
A quaint treasure of Cincinnati, Ohio, the museum is tucked away in a hilltop park overlooking the city skyline. The area is rarely bustling with people, which is part of its appeal. But, since March 13, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced the museum’s doors closed, leaving the stone building vacant.
“We’re closing to the public, but we still have a responsibility to our visitors to engage with our collection and to inspire people,” Emily Holtrop, Director of Learning and Interpretation at the museum, said.
The digitized galleries for the exhibits were already on the website, but Holtrop, her team and the staff wanted to do more. Within days of closing they created the CAM Connect Facebook group, a group run by Cincinnati Art Museum with over 1,000 people. Daily activities and videos are posted on the page, like yoga and meditation guidance, book talks and curators discussing their favorite pieces.
“[We] have been really lucky that everybody has been willing to play and have been willing to shoot videos from their dining room tables,” Holtrop said. “It’s out of a lot of people’s comfort zone… and we’re constantly evolving and learning as we learn the technology.”
The Cincinnati Art Museum is one of the many important museums around Cincinnati offering online services, like Taft Museum of Art, Contemporary Arts Center, and Cincinnati Museum Center. Both Cincinnati Art Museum and Cincinnati Museum Center, a science and history museum, offer lesson plans and hands-on learning tutorials on science, history and liberal arts for educators and caregivers that are now teaching children online or at home.
The Museum Center is offering content that range from kid-friendly playlists for Friday dance parties to archivists teaching adults how to preserve home treasures and letters. One resource for kids is the “Wonder Zone,” which is a video series of learning experiences. They were recorded the last time Cincinnati Museum Center was closed due to construction at Union Terminal, where the museum is located.
“It’s a really great resource both for science experiments you can do at home, but also just some fun things to share with younger viewers like meeting a few members of our live animal collections, and revisiting some of their favorite spots for the Duke Energy Children’s Museum,” Whitney Owens, the Chief Learning Officer at Cincinnati Museum Center, said.
Tommy Sauter, 32, has tried to incorporate some of Cincinnati Museum Center’s online content to keep his two kids entertained since the shelter-in-place order in Ohio. He tuned in last week when Owens posted an online Story Tree Time video of her reading “The Most Magnificent Thing” by Ashley Spires.
“I love the Ada Twist Scientist and Rosie Revere Engineer books so I thought it would be a fun story time activity for the kids,” Sauter said. “We might try to do some more of the CMC activities they have on their website if my wife and I can spare a moment.”
Cincinnati Art Museum has also been putting out content for parents and children, like at-home art activities. Macy Allan, an employee at the Public Library of Cincinnati, has been watching the videos on CAM Connect with her kids since they quarantined on March 14.
“I have been watching more of the videos that show or encourage creating at home, especially for kids,” Allan said. “I have been very impressed at the amount of content that CAM has put out. They have a great collection and some amazing people working there and it has been lovely to spend some time with both while still being cooped up at home.”
Cincinnati Art Museum and Cincinnati Museum Center are planning to continue publishing online resources for visitors as long as the pandemic lasts and their doors remain closed.