By Carson Lewis | Assistant Digital Managing Editor
Martin Museum reopened to the public last month, and attendees can now view the “Floating World” exhibition, which premiered last semester for only one day before being forced to close due to the spread of COVID-19.
The museum itself has adapted to better accommodate the safety and comfort of its visitors. Director Allison Chew said that the museum has been changed in a variety of ways, including the removal of seating in the gallery and a reduction in the number of visitors that can be in the exhibition space at once.
“We have to change the way we think about how we interact with the public and how we make our collections and exhibitions accessible,” Chew said.
A large portion of this change has come from the online focus of the museum. Where dozens of pamphlets once sat beneath the desk of the museum attendants now lay several QR codes, which lead viewers to webpages and video related to the exhibition. This decision was made to limit the spread of germs through the touching of physical materials.
When the museum was forced to close down last semester, the staff had to find new ways for their audience to access their art exhibitions. Student art shows, originally planned for physical showing, shifted to exhibition online.
Chew said that the museum’s staff was surprised by the response they got from their online presence.
“We actually got a lot of really great feedback from that. A lot of distant family [of student artists] who couldn’t travel to see the physical shows normally, now had the opportunity to see the work,” Chew said. “We decided moving forward that we would try to do an online component of most of our exhibitions.”
While some of the material on the museum’s collections has gone online, the attendants of the museum gallery are still giving tours, albeit in a different way than before. A clear barrier separates the attendant desk from the rest of the museum, and the museum workers give tours from behind it, or in an area of the museum bereft of visitors.
Elisa Crowder, one of the attendants working the museum, said that the transition has had its challenges.
“The first tour was very very awkward for me … We quickly realized that [I couldn’t see the entire exhibition] and I felt too disconnected,” Crowder said.
Over time, Crowder said she’s been able to get into the flow of giving tours again and believes that audiences are beginning to ask more questions and engage with the collection. Moving into the gallery and giving tours while practicing social distancing has also allowed for Crowder to feel more connected to her audience.
In looking to the future, Chew said that the museum will have to adapt with the times, but is still looking to provide the same service it has been providing for the Baylor community.
“We’re trying to think outside that normalcy that we’re so used to,” Chew said. “It’s been a shake up, but it’s been a good one, I think.”
Upcoming exhibitions and information on Martin Museum’s current showings can be found on their website.