Museums are closed, so I'm bringing them to you

If you log onto my Twitter today, you can take your pick from videos of me talking about the mystery of the Titanic toy pig, the legend of the moon rabbit or what you might find inside the Blue Whale at the Natural History Museum.

Listening to a story like that from a stranger in his pyjamas may sound rather silly, but with the current climate, silliness can be precisely what is needed. The feedback so far has been that it makes people feel less alone and isolated. One person told me it was keeping them from losing the plot. 

I can’t contribute directly to reducing cases of COVID-19, nor can I support the world effort to create a vaccine, but I can continue to do what I would normally be paid to do: I am a freelancer working with museums and historic buildings, and I help tell their stories.

With the coronavirus outbreak, these public spaces are now closed to the public and my work (and the work of others like me) has been put on hold for the foreseeable future – so we’ve taken it online.

#MuseumFromHome started on twitter when the Museum of Modern Art in America shared virtual tours of their collections. Coincidentally – but entirely separately – myself and fellow museum nerd Dan Vo started a WhatsApp conversation and came up with exactly the same hashtag. 

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We wanted to use the word ‘museum’ like a verb, so even if you can’t go to a museum anymore you can ‘museum’ anywhere you like! 

The hashtag now includes everyone from big organisations and scientists to individuals sitting in their living rooms (which was always the idea), sharing short accessible stories, how-tos, and funny anecdotes related to the things they love. 

I tend to talk exceptionally fast, trying to squeeze in as much as I can into 60 seconds. I think it makes for funny viewing but I’ll let you be the judge of that! 

The whole idea is to keep people involved and make them feel part of it, so the topics I chose are playful, surprising and quirky. Having worked in museums for 10 years I’ve collected a fair few weird and wonderful stories.

I am taking part in this for many reasons – firstly, because it keeps me sane. My mother is immunocompromised and unable to leave the house and I am self isolating to keep her and others safe.

It’s scary, but it’s also boring. Really boring. I make my videos because they are fun, they keep me busy and I love the conversations I am having with people all over the world. 

The second reason is that I hope they do some good. If it brings a smile to even a few people, gives some kids a project to work on whilst they’re off school, then it will have been a success.

Government support may be on its way for some, but people who work like me find themselves falling through the gaps of most of the financial aid being offered so far. 

Online and remote work is for now the only way forward and I hope more museums reach out with opportunities to keep us all employed.

There are thousands of people on Twitter with the craziest interests, with passions and expertise, and I hope we are building a space for this to flourish and be accessible for the coming months. 

With more and more of the world shut inside, it is important to hear voices that talk about the world outside, the stories from our past and the amazing things around us. It’s a reminder that even if the places have closed, those stories haven’t gone anywhere.

So If you can’t head outside, or you are feeling blue why not wander around the Museums of Germany, New York or London? Why not have a chat with a curator about their favourite artwork. Or why not make your own video about a story from history, art or science that makes you smile. Or, of course, you can just sit back and watch! 

Just because the museums are closed, it doesn’t mean you can’t still visit.

Share your views in the comments below.

Do you have a story you’d like to share? Get in touch by emailing [email protected]

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