Curators at Middlebury College Museum of Art in Vermont, Sarah Laursen and Sarah Briggs, developed Vermont Art Online in direct response to the COVID-19 crisis.
Vermont Art Online is a resource for teachers and families that offers virtual 3D tours of now-closed museums and galleries throughout the state of Vermont.
"At a time when billions of people around the world are separated from one another, museums can bring us together.” - Ernesto Ottone, UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Culture
Visible social impact
As well as benefiting those visiting the museums online, the site also helps to increase art institutions' visibility by increasing their website traffic. As curators and educators with digital media backgrounds, they used their skills and local connections to empower fellow curators. “The fact that we have such a close-knit network in Vermont made it possible to carry out this collaboration in such a short time frame.” Sarah Laursen
The ThingLink exhibits are embedded in the Vermont Art Online website, which has been distributed to media outlets, cultural institutions, and educational networks. The landing page for the ThingLink tours is an interactive map of Vermont. Clicking on a museum icon brings visitors to the landing page of an individual museum or gallery. From there, icons link to information about the institution and ways to support it, and an arrow leads the visitor into the site and through up to three linked photo spheres. In cases where 360 photos could not be taken because of safety concerns, 2D installation shots were used instead. The tours are annotated with text, photos, external links, and video provided by the Vermont curators and their websites.
Google Street View was integral to their approach. “We sent curators a video tutorial for the Google Street View app and asked them to send us photospheres, high-res images, and content to annotate them. I (Sarah Laursen) began working on the ThingLink pages and Sarah Briggs designed a Squarespace site with educational resources. Within ten days, we had signed on about 30 institutions, secured funding, built and launched the site and conducted a few press interviews!”
Sarah and Sarah knew that many staff members and even directors would be discouraged or barred from entering their galleries within a matter of days due to social distancing measures, so they asked the Vermont Curators Group to put out an immediate call to museum and gallery curators across Vermont, stressing the time-sensitive nature of the task. Once all the materials from participating institutions were collated, ThingLink was used to stitch them together into immersive virtual exhibits.
“Culture never stops, & it is crucial that museums keep going too, especially in the face of #COVID19” UNESCO 2020.
Benefits for Vermonters
Vermont Art Online benefits two groups: communities, and the participating institutions. Parents, teachers, and individuals looking for quality online arts programming have few obvious resources to turn to, especially for local content. With Vermont Art Online, a single place was created where the public can easily find a range of engaging and educational experiences. This also benefits the museums and galleries who are featured on the site because it makes them visible to new audiences who might not have heard of their institution before, or thought to go to their site for online programming.
“We hope that people will discover arts and cultural organizations they have never been to, and put it on their bucket list to go when doors reopen”. Sarah Laursen and Sarah Briggs
With many thanks and well wishes to Sarah and Sarah - Vermont Art Online.
They can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Get started today by heading over to thinglink.com/edu and signing up for your free teacher account.
For more information please contact:
Louise Jones, Director Education Community & Partnerships