Time for new ideas at Latvia's Rundāle Palace

Rundāle Palace Museum has begun publishing online videos in one of the various attempts to maintain a connection to visitors while doors are closed due to the state of emergency caused by the spread of the Covid-19 novel coronavirus, according to a Latvia Radio broadcast on April 14.

The latest 11 minute video features a tour of the “From Gothic to Jugendstil” exhibition led by longtime museum director Imants Lancmanis. According to experts, the pandemic has created a stimulus for museums to get more creative with their digital strategy. Laura Lūse took over the museum leadership from Lancmanis last year, and her idea about creating digital tours was born after the exhibit was finished in 2018, but by chance coincided with the museum closure.

“Those who've heard Imants Lancmanis' lectures on styles of art, or lectures on anything; those know that at the same time it's also an exciting journey through history with deep competence and a sense of style, which we also then hope to pass on to our viewers,” said Lūse.

During the first week the first video titled “Gothic” reached over three thousand viewers.Videos on the renaissance and mannerism will follow. “Since the beginning of the state of emergency our social media account and website traffic has increased a lot – by over 50%. People are very interested  in the option to virtually tour the Rundāle Palace Museum and “turn” the rooms remotely,” said the new director.

The annual informative day of lectures on new acquisitions will be moved online, and in May the museum plans to publish Johann Adam Hiller's opera Die Jagd (The Hunt) from the Rundāle Palace Green Theater in 2018.

Other museums have also expanded their digital offering. Latvian National Museum of Art Curator Elita Ansone has created an “anti-public” exhibition composed of ten works of video art, which is available on the museum's website through the end of May, according to museum press secretary Elīna Bērziņa. She also mentioned the assistance Latvian startup Vividly has offered the Museum of Decorative Arts and Design in digitizing their “Skuja Braden” exhibit.

“Six “Skuja Braden” artworks are now viewable virtually, as 3D versions. Anyone can zoom in on them as close as they want, look at the artwork from all possible sides and get to know the stories of these works of art,” said Bērziņa.

The Creative Museum think tank has collected industry expert reflections on operating during the crisis, however Director Ineta Zelča-Sīmansone feels there needs to be additional progress. “If we're talking about these virtual walks and galleries, in my opinion we've already become a bit tired of these 360 degree tours with poetic music and without intellectual content,” said Ineta Zelča-Sīmansone. She also calls for more art to be available outside museums, such as the still life from the Dutch Rijksmuseum projected on the Kalnciems Quarter building facade.

She also concedes a few good examples: the National Art Museum initiatives, National History Museum's emuseum “emuzejs”, and the Žanis Lipke Memorial organization's  “Underground Riga” online audio tour. National Library's “Book in Latvia” exhibit director Inga Surgunte has compiled a large part of the library's digital offering. 
 

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