How museums can strive for 'better normal' amid COVID-19 crisis


Posted at Jun 19 2020 03:43 PM | Updated as of Jun 19 2020 10:10 PM

MANILA - "Why not think of not just a new but a better normal?" 

Maria Isabel Garcia, managing director and curator of Bonifacio Art Foundation, Inc. (BAFI), posed this question as museums across the globe find ways to deal with the effects of the novel coronavirus pandemic. 

In a recent webinar organized by the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP), Garcia presented "possible directions towards a better normal," taking into account not only trends but also the main goal of museums to provide a learning experience to the public.

She said the first step is to place value on the "people-planet nexus" regardless of the nature of a museum, noting that it matters now more than ever because of the COVID-19 crisis.

"Take that nexus and tell that story in science, history, or art. There is no neutrality when it comes to planetary health. There is no escaping the fact that we ruined it. So what is next for us?" said Garcia, citing their efforts at BAFI which established the Mind Museum in Taguig.

Garcia stressed the importance of "championing connected learning through pandemic-borne objects," and coming up with new ways of delivering a museum's purpose, such as using online tools. 

"Identify people in your team who could help steer the organization in that direction, and empower them," she said.

She also encouraged museums to "design the 'wait'" instead of simply looking for cues.

"We are so good at designing things. We can design experiences while we wait for a vaccine, or while we wait for the government to say that museums are okay and in what form," she said, citing possible tie-ups with companies and brands to spread the word about science, art, and history.

"Museums are essential. We provide the kind of learning that no school, no other think tank can do," she emphasized. "So it's just the delivery that will matter."


Also part of the CCP webinar is Bryan Paraiso, supervising historic sites development officer of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP). 

Paraiso said the commission has been "providing alternative learning platforms," particularly through social media, as it continues to fulfill its educational mandate.

Echoing Garcia's statement, he mentioned the "need to be creative and to think out of the box for solutions" amid the pandemic. 

"We at NHCP decided to use available graphics software, online apps, and social media to allow us to think of alternative ways to make Philippine history relevant," he said.

"We do not lose sight that what matters to us is to continue to instill values, awareness, and appreciation for Philippine history and heritage through a variety of platforms, and to eventually encourage the public to step inside again into the physical setting of the museum and to have a direct communication with the artifacts on exhibit," he added.