How an International Museum Embraced Digital During COVID-19

Author: Casey Gale       

Louvre Abu Dhabi

In an on-demand Convening Leaders session, Manuel Rabaté, the director of the Louvre Abu Dhabi walks us through the museum’s digital engagement strategy during the pandemic, providing insights for planners.

On March 15, 2020, the Louvre Abu Dhabi closed its doors to patrons due to the COVID-19 crisis and remained closed for 100 days. Though it was a challenge, Manuel Rabaté, director of the Louvre Abu Dhabi, said it also was a unique opportunity to expand the museum’s digital offerings.

“We always used multimedia — the web and social media — to interact with our visitors,” Rabaté said during the Convening Leaders 2021 session “Lessons Learned From Abu Dhabi: What a Global Pandemic Taught a World-Class Museum About Engaging Audiences, Looking Beyond the Walls of the Museum, and the Importance of Embracing Digital.” But during the 100 days of closure, when the only people entering the museum were the curators, collection managers, and restorers charged with preserving the works of art, the Louvre Abu Dhabi took that time to “accelerate our digital transformation,” Rabaté said.

Rabaté’s insights can spark ideas for organizations seeking to better engage their communities online, specifically on their websites — which is where the Louvre Abu Dhabi’s transformation started. The Louvre Abu Dhabi developed a 360-degree tour of the museum’s latest international exhibition, called “Furusiyya: The Art of Chivalry Between East and West,” and also developed an online workshop called “Make and Play,” specifically aimed at engaging schools and families. The workshops, which Rabaté described as “short, very fun, and interactive” videos, allowed viewers to make simple at-home art inspired by the pieces displayed at the Louvre Abu Dhabi — such as a creating a paper animal mask based on a Shamanic Ritual Mask from Alaska, 1890-1910.

The Louvre Abu Dhabi took another step to make its art works accessible to online audiences by setting up a page on its website called “Art from Home: Stories of Cultural Connections.” The page features images, videos, audio explanations, and written stories — available free of charge to researchers and art lovers alike — of 120 key pieces from the museum’s collection.

To expand the museum’s work across a wide range of media, the Louvre Abu Dhabi experimented with music by partnering with Anghami, a popular streaming service in Abu Dhabi, to develop a series of playlists inspired by the museum’s works of art. “You can listen at home,” Rabaté said, “But now that the museum is open, you can use it as a way to accompany you in your visit.”

Want to learn how the museum is operating with COVID-19 regulations now that it has reopened? This session is available on demand to CL21 registrants in the Convening Leaders Library until March 15. Visit conveningleaders.org to learn how to register for this and other on-demand CL21 sessions.

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