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The Daily Tar Heel

North Carolina Museum of Art opens its virtual doors to the public

ncma social media .jpeg

Visitors walk by Thomas Sayre's sculpture "Gyre" at the North Carolina Museum of Art. The museum, among other organizations, has taken to social media to promote the arts. Photo courtesy of Kat Harding. 

The North Carolina Museum of Art closed its doors to the public because of concerns about COVID-19, but its collection remains available to the public on the museum’s website, including educational resources and content related to the works in the collection.

According to a press release from the NCMA posted on March 17, the museum’s park will remain open to the public. Park visitors are encouraged to practice social distancing during their visit.

Much of the museum’s collection has been digitized and made available in an online catalog. Visitors can browse through featured selections from the collection and use keywords to search for their favorite works.

The museum is also developing virtual tours featuring the museum’s curators. A 360-degree virtual tour of one of the museum’s conservation labs is also available on the website. 

Angela Lombardi, the museum’s director of outreach and audience engagement, said developing such content for audiences at home has been a priority for the museum.

“It's almost incomprehensible to be separated from the community like this,” Lombardi said. “We very quickly jumped into ways that we can stay engaged with those audiences even though it can't be face to face in a group setting anymore.”

The collection is also the basis of the museum’s new “NCMA Recommends” program, in which staff members will make art-making, film, music and educational recommendations inspired by visitor-favorite works from the museum’s collection.

The museum also has educational resources available for parents who are at home with their children through their NCMA Learn programming. Katherine White, deputy director of the museum, said the NCMA Learn website features more than 200 objects, as well as lesson plans, quick tips, videos and activities for children. 

“We're certainly aware of the fact that there are thousands, tens of thousands of parents at home with young people and that they are working diligently to try and offer them an education without any experience in teaching,” White said. “Our responsibility is really to give people an opportunity to help their children learn in different ways and about the arts. That's our unique capacity is to provide that kind of content in a meaningful way, making room in those parents' days for art.”

White said this difficult time presents a great opportunity for the museum to provide comfort through its collection.

“We feel very strongly that we have a responsibility to all North Carolinians and all learners,” White said. “We also recognize our responsibility to really lift up art and artists and the work they're doing always to help people reflect and process emotions, experiences, the world going on around us. So, this is a great opportunity for us to really help people find some solace, some respite in art and in the artist's process.”

Lombardi said she hopes that the museum’s content and collection can provide the comfort and connection that people are craving.

“I think that, in times like this, human creativity is one of the things that really can be practiced, even in solitude,” Lombardi said. “It can be something that offers comfort to people. I really believe that every single object in the collection has a story connected to a human that made it or a story that an artist was inspired by or they created it. By sharing those stories, it fosters a kind of human connection that everyone's really hungry for right now.”

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