The University of Pretoria Museums (UP Museums) is set to launch its first online newsletter in celebration of International Museum Day (IMD) on 18 May.
According to the Head of the UP Museums, Dr Sian Tiley-Nel, “The newsletter is a digital means to feature the museum collections and archives, to tell stories, to enjoy news snippets, commentary on current and topical issues, or to explore the book nook of available museum publications or the artwork highlight for the week.”
Dr Tiley-Nel says this new way of engaging with museum-goers online is even more timeous in light of the global COVID-19 pandemic, which has forced museums around the world to shut their doors as countries go into lockdowns. “This launch represents a means of connection and communication to those who want to listen and who wish to listen, sifting through museum information which piques someone’s interest or to share a debate – the reader decides what is relevant for them.”
The UP Museums also joined the recent International Council of Museums’ (ICOM) global online survey aimed at museums and museum professionals and assessing their response to COVID-19 as the pandemic threatens the livelihood of thousands of museum professionals across the world. The global survey data will be collated in the hopes of providing stronger and clearer responses on how to support museums through this difficult and unchartered territory.
“Museums are essentially social and engaging places and, post-COVID, museums will have to implement social distancing rules and minimise physical engagement with exhibitions,” Dr Tiley-Nel says. “What is engagement going to look like going forward? Whatever shape or form it takes, plans are going to require innovation and creativity.”
For the UP Museums, engagement means it will continue to evolve to be a cultural hub for its primary communities – University of Pretoria students, staff and alumni, as well as residents of Pretoria – while continuing to expand its reputation as a university museum of choice and a compelling arts and tourist destination for South African and international visitors alike.
“The UP Museums aims to become an active force within the university community,” Dr Tiley-Nel says. “This represents a large shift, from being a largely ceramics museums, to working within the academic landscape to shape UP’s art endeavours together with the Javett-UP as our art partner. We have to strive to pro-actively make collections and almost every aspect of our operations and services relevant in a contemporary context.”
Feedback from the e-newsletter and new featured online content will allow UP Museums to ‘listen’ to audience responses via web analytics that collate trends and results. “This feedback will guide UP Museums in continuing to adapt and change by providing near-instant, real-time data on what types of content and collections our readers are responding to in the greatest numbers,” Dr Tiley-Nel says.
The University of Pretoria Museums has been an institutional member of the International Council of Museums for over a decade. Over 91 nations worldwide participate in ICOM, and more than 4 000 museum professionals use the opportunity to promote awareness and network.
During April and May 2020, the UP Museums is set to vastly improve its digital presence. “While our doors remain temporarily closed, we are exploring and ensuring diversity and inclusion in our online content centred on the University collections,” Dr Tiley-Nel says. These innovations include displaying online collections, regular news features and an Artwork 4 the Week series.
The UP Museums’ presence on social media has also been revised, with its Instagram profile gaining new followers through the above initiatives. The UP Museums has also joined the global community by adding its digital activities to the International Museum Day 2020 interactive map. Please follow #ICOM2020 and #Museums4Equality to view content from museums around the world.
For more information on UP Museums please explore their website.
To sign up for the UP Museums digital newsletter to be launched later this month, please send an email to: [email protected].