Sharjah Museums Director says COVID-19 will force cultural institutions to rethink visitor participation

Manal Ataya, Director-General of Sharjah Museums Authority, spoke on the effects of COVID-19 on the sector at blooloop V-Expo.

Manal Ataya spoke at blooloop V-Expo last week, a unique virtual event for the attractions industry. During her presentation, Ataya spoke about how the pandemic has pushed tourist attraction destinations and cultural venues across the world to rethink how they engage with their visitors. 

Ataya was also named on this year’s blooloop 50 Museum Influencers list during the event, which recognises innovation and excellence in the global museum sector.

Museums go virtual

In her session, Ataya spoke about how the global health crisis has lead museums to further explore what is possible in the digital space, saying:

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. The pandemic has really helped us move forward in terms of expanding our digital platform and opening up to new audiences.”

While Sharjah Museums Authority (SMA) had to close its physical spaces during the height of the pandemic, it responded by launching several virtual exhibition tours, lectures and workshops to stay connected with its audience. 

This includes virtual tours such as the “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.

Reaching new audiences

In addition to this SMA is now displaying more than 100 pieces from the Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilization’s collections, on the ‘Museums With No Frontiers’ website.

As well as the virtual tours and collections, the organisation has also been holding a series of monthly online lectures and workshops, designed to cater to all community members, covering topics such as art, science and history. Since the shutdown, SMA has seen an 80 per cent increase in online visitors.  

“By making museums’ collections available and accessible 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 programs and feel safe at the same time during this pandemic,” said Ataya.

Many other innovators in the attractions industry were honoured during blooloop V-Expo, with the announcement of this years blooloop 50 Theme Park Influencers and Museum Influencers lists.