Most museums have had to close during the coronavirus crisis, but they’re working behind the scenes to make sure you can still enjoy and learn from them. Worldwide, museums are using the hashtags #museummomentofzen and #museumfromhome to deliver moments of levity, learning and peace. Most maintain YouTube channels, and others are producing extra tours and talks via Facebook Live. Here’s what some St. Louis museums and institutions have to offer virtual visitors.
Missouri Historical Society
The Missouri Historical society will share uplifting stories from St. Louis’ history on its social media platforms (@mohistorymuseum, @soldiersstlouis and @mohistlibrary on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter) using the hashtag #UpliftingSTL. Remember how good we felt when the Blues won the Stanley Cup? Imagine how 1944 St. Louis felt when the Browns and the Cardinals played in the World Series. And as always, you can browse the online collections and discover photographs of St. Louis public schools, diaries of St. Louis soldiers and promotional buttons from St. Louis businesses, campaigns and teams.
The St. Louis Zoo encourages followers on social media (stlzoo.org/socialmedia) or at stlzoo.org/blog. The zoo will share stories and photos during the closure using the hashtag #bringthestlzootoyou, including pick-me-ups such as virtual kisses from sea lions and harbor seals and a video of keepers letting Humboldt penguins visit with penguins and puffins. The zoo recently launched Monkey Mania (#StlZooMonkeyMania, stlzoo.org/monkeymania), an interactive bracket in which voters' favorite monkey species can advance from theArboreal Eight, through theForest Fourand to theFinal Round. Plus, there’s always the Penguin Cam (stlzoo.org/penguincam). Need we say more?
City Museum staffers are using their quiet time to produce Facebook Live videos featuring art projects and classes, stories, science projects and maybe some guided virtual tours. (There are at least 30 slides; can they hold onto their cameras?) Follow the hashtag #CMOnAir, and look for the schedule at citymuseum.org/city-museum-live.
Meanwhile, browse a timeline to learn when crews added a Ferris wheel to the roof, filled the giant ball pit and when Circus Harmony moved in. Speaking of Circus Harmony, check out the documentary about Circus Harmony alum Sidney "Iking" Bateman and his journey to Cirque du Soleil. Circus Harmony is also offering online circus arts classes via Zoom; classes are free but donations are accepted.
The St. Louis Art Museum offers a “Read, Watch and Listen” section online where you can read about the latest exhibitions and acquisitions and watch past performances and tours of exhibitions you may have missed. The site also features highlights from the 34,000 items in the SLAM collection. Meanwhile, staff members already are using items to help bring moments of peace.
“Today has been quite the week, right?,” said one recent post. “Take a deep breath and enjoy Edward Mitchell Bannister's 'Woman Near a Pond,' which is inspiring us to find a peaceful way to practice#socialdistancing.”
Those behind the doors of this Usonian house in Kirkwood plan to share their favorite reads about architect Frank Lloyd Wright on the home's Facebook page. To start, John Waters, Preservation Programs manager at the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy, recommends "An American Proceeding, Building the Grant House with Frank Lloyd Wright,” by Donna Grant Reilly and calls it “a great narration of the family's experience.”
The Missouri Botanical Garden will add more to its pages in the coming weeks. Staff members plan to overshare videos, stories and photos of the spring flowers in bloom, as well as showing off resources on home garden planning. Staffers recommend several playlists on the garden's YouTube channel: Biology of Plants, Exploring Our Tree Collection, the Climatron and beekeeping.
The Butterfly House hosts butterflyschool.org, full of activities, crafts, games and more, including instructions to make your own butterfly house.
The staff also plans several Facebook live videos from behind the garden walls. You can always watch a live feed of construction of the new Jack C. Taylor Visitor Center, due to open in 2022.
The fish and other animals still need to eat, and aquarium staff members who care for them have started giving fans a peek behind the scenes. More than 15,000 Facebook Live viewers tuned in March 19 to watch as Coconut the sloth ate breakfast. As she nibbled lettuce, keepers answered viewer questions and explained that the 13-month-old sloth's slow metabolism means it will take about 30 days for her breakfast to digest. And maybe, just maybe, visitors will be actually there for it.
The St. Louis Science Center is using social media to provide links to other science resources such as the Smithsonian, science demonstrations (launching a bottle into the air with gases, just like a rocket) and observations on the night sky. Staff members even "let a velociraptor out" to meet a few of his descendants — the chickens in the outdoor GROW exhibit — using the shade-throwing hashtag #NotJustPenguins.
While the outdoor parts of the World Bird Sanctuary have remained open (check the website for updates), the handlers there have posted daily Facebook Live videos about the birds and even hosted an online auction.
(Editor's note: the sanctuary decided to cancel a drive-thru safari event scheduled for April 4-5.)
The Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis has started a series of interview with CAM artists of past, present and future, here and around the world, asking how they’re getting along amid the coronavirus crisis. Photographer Liz Johnson Arthur provides her perspective and is using her time at home to look at pictures she’s already taken and to work on a sketchbook.“It’s very interesting to do that,” she told CAM. “This is not a time to do what I always do.”
The museum is also sharing art activities at home, including this one from local artist Janie Stamm, who offers a three part embroidery tutorial.
The IPHF was set to open a new exhibition March 21 but is now offering it as a 360-degree virtual tour online. The exhibition, “Masterworks: Highlights From the IPHF Collection,” features iconic images from more than 50 years and celebrates 55 years of the IPHF. Members and active military can access it for free, and “admission” is $10 for non-members and $5 for seniors and children.
The museum will host its first virtual lecture via Zoom at 1:30 p.m. April 4. The lecture, "Chasing the Light With Jack Curran–A Fireside Chat," features Curran sharing photography from his travels and portfolios from the past five years. The lecture is $5 for members and $10 for nonmembers.
The children’s museum in Kirkwood is using the hashtag #MagicatHome to show families how to create projects and experiments, such as printmaking with LEGO, shaving cream marble painting, salad spinner art, and muffin tin printmaking. It also wants people to use the hashtag to show off their creations.