Sharjah: The COVID-19 outbreak has pushed tourist destinations and cultural venues across the world to rethink how they engage with their visitors, said the director of Sharjah Museums Authority (SMA).
Manal Ataya, Director of SMA, pointed out how losing the physical space, although temporarily, made exploring the digital space a virtue of necessity. “COVID-19 opened our eyes to the possibilities of what was already there to be utilised but was ignored to a large extent, because we relied on our physical spaces,” said Ataya during a three-day online conference ‘VExpo’, which kicked off on October 13 and was organised by blooloop.com, an online networking portal for professionals working in the visitor attraction sector. “The pandemic has really helped us move forward in terms of expanding our digital platform and opening up to new audiences.”
She noted that following the closure of its museums in March due to COVID-19, the Authority had launched a number of virtual exhibition tours, lectures and workshops to stay connected with its fan base. SMA is showcasing over 100 pieces from Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilization’s collections, on ‘Museums With No Frontiers’ website, along with other curated collections from around the world, she said.
In addition to its virtual tours, SMA brings its audiences a series of monthly online lectures and workshops that cater to all community members, covering a wide range of topics, including art, science and history.
Online users surge
Due to the pandemic, the museums reached new audiences with an 80 per cent increase in online users. Among the virtual tours launched by the Authority is “Modern and Contemporary Arab Art Collection exhibition”; the permanent Arab art collection of the Sharjah Art Museum; “A Century in Flux: Chapter II — Highlights from the Barjeel Art Foundation” exhibition, and “Aida Muluneh’s Homebound: A Journey in Photography” exhibition, a collaboration between The Africa Institute, Sharjah Art Foundation and Sharjah Museums Authority.
“By making museums’ collections available online for all people across the world without the need of actually being physically present in a museum, we encouraged more visitors to enjoy our digitalised collection, exhibitions and educational programmes,” she said.
During the event, Ataya was also honoured at a ceremony for being chosen to the top “50 museum influencer list” from nominations received internationally.