By Kelly Alvarado
About eight museums on Long Island have opened exhibits and spaces online since the COVID-19 outbreak, so parents can have tools to entertain and educate their children.
The Nassau County Museum of Art, the Cradle of Aviation Museum and the Long Island Children’s Museum (LICM) and others, have transitioned their exhibits to online platforms. Museums on Long Island were faced with indefinite closures after New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo made the decision on March 20 to temporarily shut down all non-essential businesses. Since then, these institutions continue to stay connected through posts on social media platforms giving parents opportunities to provide educational entertainment to their children during the coronavirus pandemic.
“My daughter loved watching the science experiments and we even tried it at home afterwards,” Tara Visconti, a mother from Massapequa Park and member of LICM, said. “This is a fun way to keep her occupied with something that is familiar to her but also teaches new things.”
The Long Island Children’s Museum uses social media platforms like Facebook to communicate and present weekly videos with Visconti and other members. Their segments, Music and Movement and Visit LICM from Home, feature the full length video of their production, Happy as Clams, a musical based on Long Island’s Great South Bay. The museum also has 360° walkthroughs of their 14 interactive galleries, including their Thomas and Friends exhibit, to help create an online museum experience .
“The tours can help them learn while also having fun,” Samantha Padilla, an assistant Pre-K teacher at Kids By the Bunch Child Care Learning Center, said. “Many of these museums also have mini crafts and fun educational videos that go along with their tours which is helpful to the parents who are also trying to be their kids own teacher.”
The Cradle of Aviation museum has been turning to TikTok to provide viewers in isolation with education and entertainment. In 2019, TikTok said it had over 60 million monthly active users in the United States, over half of whom were between the ages of 16 and 24. Today, about 800 million people use this social media platform.
“While we had experimented with a few videos, we now saw it as a platform that we could really embrace as a fun way to stay connected to our community, reach new audiences, and integrate some history and STEM in a new way,” Frances Perpero, the director of marketing and communications, said.
On TikTok, The Cradle of Aviation has 3.7 million views through a series of posts under the hashtag #EducatorTom, where innovative aerospace education videos are provided by Tom Barry, the museum’s assistant director of education. Overall the museum has generated over one million views and has gained about 27,600 followers on the app since early January of 2020.
The museum is an educational center focused on aerospace, science and technology. Together with their TikTok presence, the museum has started offering virtual 360° gallery tours, a service called “Ask an Educator,” through which the public can bring forth STEM related homework questions to museum preceptors, and help families engage in home activities involving household items. This includes step-by-step instructions on creating a constellation finder to help kids uncover constellations in their backyards.
“We have a global audience and if we can start and maintain conversations when so many feel so isolated, reminding them of past accomplishments, when bravery overcame fear, and when dreams really came true, then we are helping in some small way,” Perpero said.
The Nassau County Museum of Art started sharing its exhibition, Blue, a gallery of artwork based on the color of the same name, online on March 20, 2020 to allow people quarantining at home take a look at the artwork remotely.
“This show just happens to be that show that takes you away to another place because blue is this color with all kinds of emotions and meanings that has to do with serenity,” Charles Riley, the Nassau County Museum of Art director, said. “To see it online or person is to really go away to that beautiful pure place.”
The Blue exhibition had its opening a week before the non-essential business closures were passed by Governor Andrew Cuomo in New York. This prompted the museum to redesign their website to cater to online visitors, who would have missed it otherwise. Although the physical exhibit reveals more colors, virtual tours can be a quick fix in this time of uncertainty, says Riley.
“During this very anxious and uncertain time, this exhibition can produce tranquility for the viewer that they might not be able to feel presently with the ongoing news in front of them, or from chaos that may be present in the home from close quarters,” Alex Ferrone, an artist featured in the Blue exhibition, said.
Along with the virtual tours, there are also educational art videos for remote learning and activities for adults and children to follow while being stuck at home such as 10-minute drawing lessons.
The Blue showcase has extended to November 2020 due to the museum closure. For now, people can see the online tour for preparation and as a sneak peak of what’s to come once this pandemic is all over, says Riley.