INTERNATIONAL FOUNDATION FORCULTURAL PROPERTY PROTECTION
Reposted from Artnet News
As a third wave of the novel coronavirus sweeps across Hong Kong, China’s special administrative region has instituted its strictest measures yet for combatting the spread of disease, including once again shutting down the city’s museums.
The government first made the decision to shutter museums in late January, during the early days of the pandemic. At the time, there were only eight confirmed COVID-19 cases in Hong Kong, six of which originated in mainland China, where the outbreak began.
Over the past week, there have been 253 confirmed cases, including 182 local infections, with a record 52 new cases on Monday, according to the South China Morning Post. There have been a total of 1,521 cases in Hong Kong, and over 13 million known cases worldwide.
Hong Kong’s Leisure and Cultural Services Department issued a statement announcing the closures, saying that “the leisure and cultural venues/facilities reopened earlier will be temporarily closed starting from July 15.”
Affected institutions include the Hong Kong Museum of Art, the HK Visual Arts Centre, and the University Museum and Art Gallery at the University of Hong Kong. Non-government institutions are following suit.
The West Kowloon Cultural District is closing the M+ Pavilion, where “Shirley Tse: Stakes and Holders” was scheduled to be on view through October 4, and the Liang Yi Museum is also shutting down.
The new restrictions also include mandatory face masks on public transportation and limiting restaurants to take out after 6 p.m. Prior to the current spike, the government had lifted restrictions on parties of more than eight at restaurants and permitted gatherings for up to 50 people. Now, they are limited again to four people, as was the case back in March.
This is the second time that Hong Kong has been forced to quell a new rise in case counts. The city eased restrictions in March and reopened museums on the 11th of that month—until the number of cases suddenly doubled from 157 to 317, and institutions closed again.
Art Basel Hong Kong, which was scheduled to take place this past March 19 to 21, was canceled in February.
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A year ago, getting to see the Mona Lisa without thronging crowds was a privilege afforded to the likes of Beyoncé and Jay Z.
But big crowds are now unimaginable at the Paris museum, which reopened on Monday, July 6, after more than three months of lockdown.
The closure—its longest since World War II—meant a €40 million drop in revenue for the institution, which typically accommodates 30,000 people a day.
On Monday, just 7,000 people reserved tickets—an unsurprising figure, given that 75 percent of the museum’s visitors come from overseas. The Louvre says it expects more local crowds for the foreseeable future.
But at least some tourists did make it on Monday, including Steve, who declined to give his first name.
“We think it was nice and not so crowded because they don’t have so many international tourists yet,” Steve, who visited with a friend from Finland, told Artnet News.
For the moment, 30 percent of the museum remains closed, including the galleries devoted to the arts of Africa, Asia, Oceania, and the Americas, as well as the lower level of the Islamic galleries.
As expected, face masks are now a must. Tickets, with set time entries, must be reserved online, and visitors must follow one-way color-coded trajectories throughout the museum to avoid bottlenecks. Social-distancing markers now adorn the floors of the 16th-century former royal palace, and hand-sanitizing stations are peppered throughout.
Lily Heise, a museum visitor who lives in Paris and works as a travel writer, told Artnet News she immediately booked her ticket, noting that she would normally avoid the “unbearable” crowds that show up during the high summer season. The new situation made visiting the museum “all the more desirable,” she said.
“The quieter sections of the museum were blissfully peaceful and you could almost feel like you had the museum to yourself,” Heise said. She likened the experience to visiting the Louvre on its typically quieter late openings, on Wednesday and Friday evenings.
On Twitter, some visitors expressed particular excitement at seeing the Mona Lisa, which the Louvre is allowing people to see in small groups, without the usual “chaotic mob.”
But visitors we spoke to said the Denon Wing—where the Mona Lisa, the Winged Victory of Samothrace, and French large-format paintings live—was still the busiest part of the museum, which has long been an issue at the Louvre.
“I didn’t go for Mona Lisa but I saw her and it was pretty crowded,” said another early-bird returner to the museum, Cristina Birsan, an administrator at a Parisian university. “I thought that it would be a kind of more intimate atmosphere, but not quite.”
After months of debate, France has decided to stick to tradition in reconstructing Paris’s Notre Dame Cathedral, rather than replacing the 19th-century spire with a contemporary design.
Designed by French architect Eugene Viollet-le-Duc, the spire collapsed in the April 2019 blaze that tore through the church’s wooden attic. Wrongly identified as a false alarm, the fire raged unchecked for close to a half hour before firefighters were called to the scene.
By that time, the wooden timbers of “The Forest,” as the attic was sometimes called, were almost beyond saving. Firefighters focused much of their energies on salvaging the cathedral’s Gothic belfry towers from collapse. As they fought to combat the flames, the 800-ton, 305-foot-tall lead-coated spire crashed through the vaulted stone ceiling, tumbling to the cathedral floor.
Extinguishing the conflagration took nine hours.
In the immediate aftermath of the disaster, President Emmanuel Macron promised that the cathedral would be rebuilt within five years—in time for the 2024 Olympics in Paris—and announced that there would be an international architectural competition to redesign the spire, which was added to the 13th-century cathedral in 1859.
“A contemporary architectural gesture” could make Notre-Dame “even more beautiful,” said Macron.
The idea was met with skepticism from numerous architects, conservationists, and academics, and polls showed that the majority of Parisians favored restoring Viollet-le-Duc’s design. (The original spire, built between 1220 and 1230, fell into disrepair and was dismantled in the late 1700s.)
The French Senate passed a bill requiring that the reconstruction be faithful to its “last known visual state,” and Philippe Villeneuve, the cathedral’s chief architect, even threatened to resign if Notre-Dame was not rebuilt the way it was. He clashed with Jean-Louis Georgelin, the army general in charge of the reconstruction, who favored a modern replacement spire, during a meeting of the National Assembly’s cultural affairs committee in November.
Macron’s change of heart follows the recommendation of the National Heritage and Architecture Commission, an advisory body for restoration projects, which met last week and heard testimony from Villeneuve.
The committee said that recreating the previous appearance of the cathedral would “guarantee the authenticity, the harmony, and the coherence of this masterpiece of Gothic architecture.” That also includes eschewing modern, potentially safer materials—even though the 460 tons of toxic lead coating the fallen spire posed a major health risk to Parisians. (Wood, on the other hand, might be safer than you’d expect.)
Macron “has become convinced of the need to restore Notre Dame de Paris in the most consistent manner possible to its last complete, coherent and known state,” read a statement from the Elysée Palace, the president’s official residence. Instead, the city will pursue another “contemporary gesture” in the “redevelopment of the surroundings of the cathedral.”
Proposals for a new spire had come in from around the world, reimagining the structure ways ranging from Studio NAB’s plan for a greenhouse with an actual forest and Ulf Mejergren’s rooftop swimming pool.
British architect Norman Foster presented a design for a glass roof with a crystal spire; Brazilian architect Alexandre Fantozzi’s designed one entirely of stained glass; the Slovakian firm Vizum Atelier suggested a light beam piercing the heavens—a goal of Gothic architects—while French designer Mathieu Lehanneur favored a 300-foot gold leaf-covered carbon fiber flame commemorating the fire.
Work on the fire-damaged building has been delayed at various points due to extreme heat, concerns about lead pollution, and the recent two-month shutdown of Paris. An architectural competition could have potentially drawn out the process even longer, jeopardizing Macron’s tight timeline.
Last month, workers finally began removing the 200 tons of twisted metal scaffolding, melted by the flames, that had been in place around the cathedral due to an in-progress restoration project.
Reposted from AAM
Looking for some good things in a terrible time, people have pointed out that air pollution plummeted as the world locked down, sea turtles are nesting undisturbed, managers are realizing telecommuting actually increases productivity, and insurers, providers, regulators and patients are embracing telemedicine (which, done right, could reduce costs and improve care in the long term).
In several recent webinars and interviews, I’ve been asked whether any good will come out of the pandemic for museums. Given thirty seconds or so to answer the question, I’ve tossed out some things that come to mind: financial stress and practical limits on loans may lead museums to explore their own permanent collections to create new exhibits. (We saw this happen during the 2008 recession as well.) Cost, logistics and the fact that the public is unlikely to want to crowd into packed venues may finally end the reliance of some museums on “blockbuster” exhibitions (which are already recognized as the financial equivalent of an unhealthy sugar rush). Long-term downturns in tourism may lead some museums to pay more attention to the needs and interests of their local communities. I think these could all be good things.
But sometimes when people ask this question, they are hoping to hear how the pandemic may change power structures, authority, pay, and working conditions in museums—aspects of our field with which they were already profoundly unhappy before the pandemic struck. I’ve been frustrated in trying to give that query the attention it deserves in the brief context of a Q&A, so I’m tackling it in this blog post. Frankly it’s too big a question for a single post, either (perhaps a graduate thesis?) but I hope this is at least a productive start.
When it comes to deep structural changes, the answer to “is this crisis an opportunity for change” is complicated. As Jim Dator wrote in 1994, when offering advice on writing stories of the future, “catastrophes can happen in your scenario, but they cannot be the cause of a new and perfect humanity which sees the error of its ways, and now is all sweetness and light.” The fact that a museum is going broke, laying off staff and facing the danger of permanent closure, doesn’t mean that it is going to respond by raising salaries for front-line staff, instituting pay caps for executives, adopting a flat management structure, or welcoming union organizing efforts.
Which isn’t to say that these things—pay reform, reorganization, and improved working conditions—can’t happen, but they aren’t an inevitable or even a likely result of disruption, absent other forces at work. In this post I profile one example of such “other forces”: local activists using the disruptions created by the pandemic as an opportunity to build a preferred future for their city.
In the past few decades, Venice has become a “tourism monoculture,” with half the city’s 50,000 residents directly employed in tourism, indirectly supporting the other half. Even as the number of residents shrink, the city hosts 20 million tourists a year. Those two trends are intertwined—Venetians are being squeezed out by the soaring cost of housing in part because 8,000 apartments have become dedicated Airbnb rental units. Tourism lowers the quality of life for those who remain in the city—damaging the Venetian lagoon’s already fragile ecology, degrading monuments, monopolizing transportation and clogging the narrow roadways. This recent article in the New York Times outlines the vicious economic cycle that drives Venice’s reliance on tourist dollars and how COVID presents an opportunity to break that addiction.
Italy was one of the early hotspots in the global pandemic and imposed draconian travel restrictions to tamp down the spread of the virus. Even after the government lifted travel restrictions in early June, Venice has seen few tourists. The paucity of visitors has had some positive effects (you may have seen videos of fish and jellyfish returning to the city’s clean and empty canals) but this has devastated the local economy. Some residents see this lull as an opportunity to achieve something they have long wanted—a sustainable model for tourism that supports a livable city, a healthy ecosystem, and a more diverse economy.
COVID-19 has spurred disparate groups to coordinate their efforts to reshape Venice as the economy rebounds, promoting actions that will create healthier forms of tourism and new sources of income for residents. For example, cultivating fewer, wealthier tourists could free up housing and minimize environmental damage. Promoting and expanding local universities, while emphasizing programs relevant to local issues (climate change, cultural preservation), could support jobs untethered from tourism. In the Times article an art curator points out that “Arts foundations and research institutes from all over the world should have an interest to open a chapter here.” And (per Richard Florida) some locals believe that Venice’s economy could be supported by the creative class—especially digital nomads who can choose to work from anywhere in the world. These ideas, in turn, suggest specific short-term steps toward this desired future: converting empty B&Bs to student housing; offering incentives to arts organizations to open local outposts; creating coworking spaces to support start-ups and individual entrepreneurs; drafting regulations that discourage day-trippers and cruise-ship tourism while encouraging long-term stays.
This is a wonderful vision, supported by great ideas. I hope that this informal coalition holds together and relentlessly pushes officials, residents, and businesses to walk this path. Absent this kind of concerted action to create a new economy for the city, tourism in Venice may well rebound to the old monocultural model, because the existing incentives and structures favor the pre-pandemic system.
Lessons for Museums
Your vision of a better future for your museum, or museums in general, may seem as improbable as a dream of a clean, livable Venice in which people from abroad may experience its history, architecture and culture as students, researchers, or independent workers in addition to a modest number of tourists. The pandemic has gutted the traditional business model of museums just as thoroughly as it has emptied the Venetian canals, and this may present the opportunity to build new systems rather than simply rebounding to the status quo. But, per the example of the “sustainable tourism” activists, it isn’t enough to know what you don’t want (be it monotourism, reliance on paid admissions, or inequities in pay and power) you also need to envision what you want in its place, design a financial model that can support that new system, and identify what steps you can take to bend the future in this direction.
Last year I led delegates to Museums Advocacy Day in a short exercise in backcasting—a tool for plotting a course from the present to a desired future. In the next post in this series, I’ll explore how you might use backcasting to identify what you can do now to create a path towards a future of healthy, sustainable museum operations.
Reposted from Security Management Magazine
One of my first experiences with workplace training occurred when I was employed as a roughneck on an oil service rig in 1986. No training was provided, and so the rig was rife with accidents and near misses. Whenever I asked the rig manager why we were doing something, he would curse me out and tell me to shut up.
After a few months, the manager pulled me aside and told me that if I did not figure things out soon, he would fire me. I told him I would learn faster if I received some training. He ignored my comment. But as it happens, I had learned enough to keep my job, and when a new man was hired to my four-man rig, I took it upon myself to train him.
In two weeks, I taught him everything I had figured out the hard way over the previous few months. When he was fully trained, the rig manager, who had watched the entire process from five feet away, took me aside.
“I knew I was right in threatening to fire you,” he said smugly. “It obviously motivated you.”
I learned two things from this experience. First, training is a powerful preparation tool that can also save time and sustain a safe working environment. Second, not all managers are leaders.
Besides being a powerful preparation tool, training is also a complex process. Most jobs, including security guarding, are complicated, so to train for them successfully students need to learn and understand both foundational and task-specific skills.
For example, writing a security incident report is a complex process requiring verbal and communication skills; the ability to gather and analyze various pieces of information; the ability to structure that information in coherent order; the ability to understand potentially complex legal issues; and an understanding of the investigation process.
Learning skills such as these can be viewed as a process of achieving competencies. As defined by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Human Resources Department, competencies are “observable and measurable knowledge, skills, abilities, and personal attributes that contribute to enhanced employee performance and ultimately result in organizational success.”
The ASIS Foundation, working with the University of Phoenix and the Apollo Education Group, created an operational security industry competency model in 2014 and later refined it in 2018. The competency model consists of several layers, starting with personal effectiveness—which includes interpersonal skills, integrity, initiative, adaptability, flexibility, reliability, and an interest in lifelong learning.
Above this first layer are academic competencies, which include security fundamentals, business foundations, and critical thinking. At the third level are workplace competencies, including teamwork, strategic thinking, problem solving, and working with technology. The fourth level consists of industrywide technical competencies. The fifth level consists of industry sector functional areas, and the sixth consists of occupational competencies and requirements. All six layers can inform a well-rounded and effective security training program.
All aspects of security require personal and professional competencies and skills. Security occupations are challenging and complex, whether a security officer is de-escalating a potential workplace violence situation, a security manager is building a comprehensive operations management program, or a chief security officer is developing a global security plan. Training and education are necessary.
While some skills needed for security may be transferable from other occupations, other skills are not. They can only be learned either in the classroom or in the field—preferably both. However, since most organizations do not have the time to wait for their employees to learn through trial and error, many skills are best learned in a training program.
The first step in developing a training program is to identify the intended outcome. For example, if a security officer requires patrol skills, then it is necessary to identify specifically what he or she needs to be able to do. Defining necessary skills requires a full understanding of what these jobs entail, and this usually means research. For example, major purposes of patrols include detecting and preventing unauthorized activity, ensuring compliance with organizational operations, inspecting physical security systems, and responding to emergencies. These are all complex actions, and they require specific skills to support them.
Once all this is identified, the next step is the creation and acquisition of course documents for both instructors and students.
Instructor documents include lesson plans, course syllabi and maps, and marking rubrics. One of the most important documents is the lesson plan, in which the instructor details training topics, length of delivery, student activities, resources needed for content delivery, and detailed learning objectives. These learning objectives will focus on achievements such as knowledge acquisition, cognitive skills enhancement, and psychometric skills development.
The marking rubric is the document by which students are graded. A rubric helps both the instructor and student; it provides a road map for the consistent marking of assignments. Finally, course documents can also include participant manuals, textbooks, handouts, technical vendor literature, legislative statements, and presentation material.
Besides course documents, the program may include training tools such as standard operating procedure and enterprise resource planning documents, any relevant legislation related to guarding or other relevant tasks, and personal protective equipment such as uniforms, masks, and weather gear. Any other equipment that the employee is expected to operate should be identified. This may include fire alarm panels, video surveillance, lighting controls, access control devices, and building management systems.
Program content creation requires a key decision: how the training will be delivered.
Generally, it is best for students to work in an active learning environment where they have an opportunity to practice skills. This is not always possible due to program limitations; sometimes it is necessary to deliver training in a passive environment. However, results are more likely to be disappointing with the latter method. It is also important to remember that the more time passes between learning and practicing, the less knowledge the student will retain.
When considering content delivery, remember that there are several types of training and education categories, including cognitive, psychomotor, and affective.
Cognitive training is generally considered to be foundational knowledge that provides the “why” of the material. For example, if the student is learning how to operate a fire alarm panel, the training material could include the fire code, the technical fire panel manual, and the standard operating procedures. These documents provide information on how the panel operates and what is expected of the operator.
Psychomotor skills development involves the actual hands-on operation of the fire panel, including how to read the panel, how to answer the fire phone, and how to acknowledge alarms.
Affective training focuses on the ethics of operating the fire alarm panel in the most professional manner possible.
For all three of these categories, it is the responsibility of the trainer to understand the various teaching strategies and tactics available to them in order to best deliver the material. Here it is important to understand adult learning, which differs from child learning in several ways.
First, adult learners have considerable personal experience to draw upon, whereas children are closer to blank slates. Second, adults have a desire to understand why they need to learn, so they can connect the effort with a desired outcome. Children, for the most part, learn because they are told to.
Third, adults usually require opportunities to self-reflect and internalize the knowledge they are gaining. In contrast, children will make sense of the content through socializing in class. Finally, adults know they learn best in certain ways and tend to stick with those methods, while children are more open to different learning styles. These differences make it necessary for adult learning instructors to deliver training in a variety of ways.
Given the importance of adult learning, program trainers should be required to have formal training (certification preferred) in adult learning and experience working in adult learning environments. Hiring trainers that lack formal training contradicts the program’s inherent message that training is crucial. Given this requirement, the hiring organization should be aware of adult learning opportunities in its region. Many universities and colleges offer adult learning certificates and train-the-trainer programs.
A good trainer should be able to explain how to create a training program, what the learning outcomes should be, and what tools will be used. In addition, trainers should be able to show examples of security training material they have created in the past.
Within the style of adult learning, the trainer may employ a variety of teaching methods, including lecture, discussion, in-class student assignments, reading assignments, class discussion, and fieldwork with practice opportunities. As I learned when I informally trained our new hire as a service rig roughneck, hands-on exposure is one of the most effective methods of skill development training. Providing students with the opportunity to instruct content can also be an effective learning method, but for this to be successful, the instructor must provide the student with sound feedback.
Following content delivery, the instructor must decide how students will be tested on the material. Will there be immediate follow-up testing? What would that testing look like? Will there be written examinations, hands-on practice testing, or both? Will the tests be individual exams or graded group-based exercises?
This is where the marking rubric comes in handy. The rubric allows the instructor to provide guidance on how students will be tested and what assignments will consist of. Overall, the rubric tells the student what the instructor is looking for, and it lays out a consistent marking scheme that helps the instructor justify the grades handed out. The rubric is the road map for both parties.
One of the more effective forms of testing is scenario-based, in which students are placed into a realistic work setting similar to one they might encounter in their jobs. This is an example of psychomotor based training, and it offers students an opportunity to practice skills development in a safe setting.
Finally, students can also be tested on fieldwork. Here, the student is required to implement knowledge learned in a work setting. Afterward comes a reflection piece, whereby the student is required to write about the experience—an overview of what did and did not work, what they learned, and what they would do differently. Reflection is a powerful learning tool.
Evidence of training is important, so records of training should be retained. This practice serves all involved; the student has proof of course passage, the training program has enrollment records, and the future employer will have proof of training.
One way of keeping training records is through the development of field training manuals that can be assigned to each student guard. The manual can be built around standard operating procedures, and as the student is trained on each aspect of the job, both the trainer and trainee sign off on each component.
Finally, training programs need evaluation, and both the content and the instructor should be evaluated for effectiveness.
One evaluative option is the Kirkpatrick Model’s four-step methodology, in which four questions are asked of the trainer: Did the students enjoy themselves? Did they learn the material? Did the training change the students’ behavior? Did the employer receive value for the training program?
In addition, there are several learning theories that are relevant to program evaluation, because they detail the complex learning process between trainer and trainee. One of these sets out criteria that must be met for the training to be successful, including the students’ physical and mental environment, the reasons that students are in class, and the instructor’s ability to deliver complex themes.
Finally, there are many reference documents available that may assist in the development of training programs. Some of them include the ASIS International Private Security Officer Selection and Training guideline; the Enterprise Security Competency Model; Security Supervision and Management,Fourth Edition, by Davies, Hertig, and Gilbride; and The Professional Protection Officer, Second Edition, by Davies and Fennelly.
As I learned as a roughneck, training helps employees be more productive, and safer, work smarter and not harder, and enjoy their jobs more. While training is a complex process, a well-developed security officer training program, led by instructors who are themselves well trained, will maximize the chances of success for all involved.
Almost all Chinese museums closed immediately on January 24, only one day after the city of Wuhan locked down, to reduce the risk of infection in crowded places. Beginning in early February, China’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism launched online public culture and tourism services, which aimed to enrich the cultural life of the public while they were locked in their homes. Viewers could browse thirty virtual exhibition halls of the National Museum of China, search for information about historical relics at the Palace Museum, and attend open courses from the National Library of China. Many of the country’s provincial museums—including those in Zhejiang, Hebei, Jiangxi, and Jilin—developed a platform to gather their resources (virtual exhibitions, online storage, online shopping, etc.) together on one website. According to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, museums across China have moved more than two thousand exhibitions online, attracting over five billion visits during the Spring Festival (January 25-January 31).
Chinese museums also collaborated with some influential online platforms for livestream events. On April 5, China’s Palace Museum, also known as the Forbidden City, went live online for a two-day streaming extravaganza. Through popular apps including People’s Daily (the largest newspaper group in China), Douyin (the Chinese version of TikTok), and Tencent News, museum staff took viewers on tours of the ancient imperial mansions, cultural relics, and springtime flora and fauna in the compound. This event attracted over one hundred million views, an astronomical number even for a country with one-fifth of the world’s population.
Some online live programs focused not on Chinese museums, but on other museums around the world. On February 15, the British Museum went live online for the first time on the Kuaishou app (another TikTok-like platform). A Chinese docent at the British Museum led a guided tour of Egyptian culture, Renaissance art, and the East Asian collection at the museum. Unlike on traditional television programs, the docent could interact with the audience, and got immediate and direct responses via “bullet-screen comments.” This ninety-minute event attracted two million views and five hundred thousand likes.
On March 17, more than 180 museums in China reopened after month-long closures, according to a release published on that day by the National Cultural Heritage Administration. Only museums, memorials, and cultural heritage sites in low-risk outbreak regions were allowed to gradually resume operations, with the prior permission of local authorities. In medium-risk regions, open areas of cultural heritage sites and ruins-based museums could resume opening to the public in an orderly manner, while their indoor areas had to remain closed. Museums in the high-risk outbreak regions could not open at all. In the middle of April, several museums in Beijing, Guangzhou, Dalian, and Xiamen that had reopened were required to close again due to the rising number of COVID-19 confirmed cases in these areas.
Continuing precautions to control the pandemic, museums asked visitors to make online appointments and pledged to limit the total number of visitors, stagger visiting periods, and offer digital tour services to avoid public gatherings. The Shanghai Museum, for instance, releases two thousand online appointments every day, only 30 percent of its capacity. Although the appointments on its first reopening day were booked quickly, only 996 of the two thousand registered visitors went to the museum.
The new arrangements mean that visiting a museum is not an easy thing. Visitors must remember to bring their ID and show their green health QR code, to prove that they haven’t been to high-risk regions or had close contact with sick individuals. They are required to wear face masks and the museum should check that their body temperature is below 99.1 degrees Fahrenheit. They must stagger their visiting periods and keep six feet from others. All the cafes and restaurants are closed, and only vending machines provide beverage and snacks.
Reopening museums during the pandemic also means new strategies for exhibitions and programs. Because of travel restrictions, many temporary exhibitions and other academic and educational programs had to be postponed or even canceled. Many museums had to extend the temporary exhibitions opened before closure, and curated special exhibitions with their own collections. Some museums also tried to find cooperative opportunities with museums in other East Asian countries, both because of geographical convenience and better control of the pandemic in these counties compared to others around the world. All group visitors and onsite educational programs are still postponed, leaving a gap in engagement for students.
The financial implications of COVID-19 also concern Chinese museum practitioners. A February 2020 survey of 514 practitioners in visual art organizations (including museums, galleries, auction houses, art media, and art funding) showed pessimism for the near future of this field. 42.4 percent of respondents thought COVID-19 would have a strong negative effect on the art industry, a quarter estimated that they and their organizations’ income would decrease by more than 50 percent, and only 5.6 percent thought their income would remain the same in the first half of 2020.
Although many public museums in China are free and rely on national and provincial special funds, the cancellation of activities that charge a fee still affects their income. For private museums, the situation is worse. They lost their income from tickets and events during the month-long closure, and some of them had to change their plans for temporary exhibitions this year and even next year. In the survey, respondents wanted the government to provide tax concessions (70 percent) and rent and utility subsidy (67.6 percent). During this hard time, some provincial governments offered financial help to museums. For example, on March 27, the Henan province in central China announced a plan to offer loans of no less than one billion yuan ($141 million) to help revive the cultural and tourism sectors that have been hammered by the novel coronavirus outbreak. Museums which “have a relatively mature market and the potential for cultural product innovations” would be supported by this fund.
During this time, it is important for museums to think not only about how to survive, but how best to serve the public.
Almost all middle-scale and large-scale Chinese museums have continued to put virtual exhibitions online, since many people are still restricted from traveling outside or are afraid of going to public spaces like museums. However, these exhibitions have been criticized for their homogeneity and lack of creativity, including by Jian Liu, Deputy Director of the Shanghai Museum Data Center. Museums should think about the unique characteristics of the digital space and treat the online exhibition as an independent project instead of an appendage of onsite exhibitions. Even with the same objects and themes, the ways of curation and storytelling are different. The COVID-19 pandemic is an opportunity to think about the meaning of digitization and what makes a lively online experience, with content that goes beyond pictures and videos of objects.
There are also shortfalls to livestreaming. Although the live online viewing of the British Museum on June 30 gained great attention and had many visitors, many watched it for just a few minutes and then left the page; the average viewing time was only 2.3 minutes, as estimated by Udazrenz (see this translated screenshot for a data breakdown). On the Zhihu app (a Quora-like platform in China), viewers commented that they were attracted by the big name of the Palace Museum, and the unique opportunity to enjoy the palaces with nobody there, but left disappointed by its poor recording effect, slow pace, and lack of interaction. On the other hand, sometimes too much interaction with the audience is not a good thing either. The docent of the British Museum, for instance, had to deal with live comments like, “How much are these artifacts, can we buy them?” and “the British Museum should return these Chinese national treasures to China.” Museums must consider not only technical issues but, just as important, how to interact with the audience in a new way in the virtual world.
As museums shut their doors in March, cultural institutions across the US were forced to lay off staff as revenue streams abruptly dried up. Now, museums are slowly starting to reopen—but a significant portion of the staff that kept them running will not be there to greet visitors. A second round of layoffs has seen at least 17 institutions make substantial reductions to staff in the past month, affecting a total of more than 1,350 workers, according to analysis by Artnet News.
Throughout June, major art institutions including the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Brooklyn Museum, and the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis announced plans to reduce staff, citing revenue loss and looming deficits caused by the extended closure.
“Most museums—not necessarily all of them—have fought to hold onto staff as long as possible,” Adrian Ellis, the founder of AEA Consulting, told Artnet News. “If you’re in a prolonged period of closure, it’s a extremely difficult position to be in… but at some point you’re going to have to make tough decisions—that’s why you’re paid to run the institution.”
Some say that museums could have done more to save people’s jobs, and that the latest wave of layoffs reveals fundamental flaws in the United States nonprofit model. The Blanton Museum of Art at the University of Texas at Austin, for example, avoided layoffs by matching employees with new tasks that were often put off. But most museums do not have enough financial cushion to retain their full workforce without additional philanthropic support or ongoing ticket sales and other revenue.
According to a 2016 survey from SMU DataArts, the median art museum has just 1.5 months’ worth of working capital (or cash in hand), underscoring the catastrophic impact of closures that have dragged on for three months or more.
Last month’s layoffs frequently coincided with the end of federal aid from the Paycheck Protection Program, which offers forgivable loans to businesses with under 500 employees. Under the initial PPP guidelines, three-quarters of the loan—which lasted eight weeks—had to be spent on payroll. The cuts also came at the end of the fiscal year, a time when museums reset their budgets.
SFMOMA had nearly 500 employees before lockdown. In March, it announced that it would lay off 135 on-call workers while furloughing or reducing hours for an additional 188, some 60 percent of its staff. A $6.2 million PPP loan meant that the cuts were limited only to the on-call workers. But the museum still faces an $18 million deficit going into the new fiscal year, and at the beginning of June announced the layoff or reduced schedules of 55 staffers, effective at the end of that month.
When the PPP money came in, SFMOMA staff started a Change.org petition warning that “while this is a temporary reprieve for SFMOMA workers, we know that this simply kicks the can down the road.” A second petition asked the museum to reconsider layoffs, saying that “staff at all levels have offered to decrease their hours or pay, to share what workload exists in order to preserve all of our jobs.”
Signatories criticized the “unreasonably large salaries” of executive staff, noting that “even after taking a 50 percent pay cut, [museum director] Neal Benezra earns more in one month than a full-time frontline staff member earns in an entire year.”
But even pay cuts can only go so far, and some advocates have called on wealthy museum board members step in to cover ballooning deficits and payroll expenses.
“Some board members are stepping up, but most are not,” said Art and Museum Transparency, an art workers’ collective looking to improve museum working conditions. “This is particularly egregious given the discrepancy between the healthy financial markets and plummeting employment rates. It is important to recognize that board members can afford to support staff through this, but are choosing not to.”
The squeeze comes as museums have increasingly relied on a small number of donors giving large amounts of money to fund ambitious capital projects. Just four people—Leon Black, David Geffen, Ken Griffin, and Steve Cohen—gave more than 50 percent of the Museum of Modern Art’s $400 million capital campaign to fund its recent expansion. “Asking them to protect workers is a much more modest request, but it doesn’t come with an auditorium or gallery named after them,” Art and Museum Transparency said.
Without emergency support, and with many closures still continuing, as many as one in eight such institutions worldwide may shutter for good, according to reports from UNESCO and the International Council of Museums.
“This moment is a bit like a tornado. As a tornado goes through an area, you can have a house that’s standing and next to it one that’s disappeared, just because of the path of the tornado,” said Ellis. “There’s quite a high likelihood of quite a lot of change.”
Much of the criticism of museum layoffs has centered around who exactly is losing their jobs. In many instances, institutions are cutting visitor-facing roles in anticipation of reduced hours and attendance. These same roles tend to have a higher proportion of staff of color than executive-level positions, according to museum staffing surveys.
And although plenty of senior staff have taken pay cuts, those jobs also seem to be the most secure, in part because of their specialized knowledge.
When the Brooklyn Museum laid off 29 employees on June 29, “the decision-making process was conducted with a commitment to equity, and therefore strove to have cuts fairly distributed across departments,” the museum said in a statement, noting that the percentage of BIPOC workers had actually increased from 49.8 percent to 50 percent of staff with the cuts.
But the bigger picture is more ambiguous. “Layoffs did not impact senior staff at all. So, they are not equitable at all, especially as management and senior staff is largely white,” one Brooklyn Museum employee told Artnet News.
Art and Museum Transparency has been advocating for institutions to disclose not only the size of salary cuts for top staff, but also the duration of those cuts, as well as to implement “longer-term redistribution of their payrolls to address inequities across their institutions.”
“We believe museums should honor their professed commitments to equity by supporting those staff who need it the most—the lowest paid and most precariously employed—and by cutting pay or reducing hours for those who need it the least—the highest paid and most securely employed,” the organization said.
Some museum staff members have taken these measures into their own hands. In a striking display of both staff unity and the challenge of addressing inequality swiftly on an institutional level, the Brooklyn Museum’s staff banded together to set up the the Brooklyn Museum Mutual Aid Fund. A GoFundMe pledging to support “fellow and former colleagues facing financial hardship, food insecurity, and housing insecurity” with relief payments of up to $500 each has raised over $57,000 in just three days.
Top contributors included the museum’s director, Anne Pasternak, who gave $1,500; former Brooklyn Museum director Arnold Lehman, who gave $1,000; senior contemporary art curator Eugenie Tsai, who gave $1,000, and David Berliner, the museum’s president and COO, who gave $1,000.
Unfortunately for museum employees, institutions probably aren’t out of the woods just yet. “I expect another series of layoffs announced late August,” when the second round of PPP expires, said Ellis.
Museum workers are well aware of the uncertainty they face.
“There’s a general psychological weight for art and museum workers now—those that have not yet been laid off or furloughed know that more layoffs are imminent, but lack a seat at the table in decisions directly affecting them, so are working in a state of limbo for weeks at a time,” said Art and Museum Transparency.
And as the outbreak intensifies in many states, it remains uncertain whether museums will be able to safely operate in the coming months, potentially extending (or reinstating) closures and the associated revenue loss.
“Institutions are probably making a set of decisions premised on a longer time horizon of mayhem than they might have been three or four months ago,” said Ellis. “This is probably the most difficult period in most museum management’s professional lives… This is completely uncharted territory.”
Chicago’s Children’s Museum laid off 74 of 100 employees, furloughing an additional six workers. (Chicago Tribune)
SFMOMA laid off or reduced schedules of 55 employees, after having let go 135 on-call workers in March. It is projecting an $18 million deficit for the fiscal year of 2021 following a $7 million deficit in 2020. (KQED)
The Preservation Society of Newport County, Rhode Island, laid off 231 of the 336 employees at its 11 historic homes and mansions, or 69 percent of its staff. (NewportRI.com)
The Cleveland Museum of Natural History laid off 26 employees, or 10 percent of the staff, reducing the $15 million annual budget by $1.2 million and helping make up for the $1.5 million lost during the shutdown. (Cleveland.com)
The Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe, laid off 45 employees, or 44 percent of staff, after a $1 million PPP loan ran out. (Santa Fe Reporter)
The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco (the de Young Museum and the Legion of Honor) laid off 14 staff members and furloughed an additional 33 employees in light of a projected $20 million revenue loss. The institution had received a $4.1 million PPP loan. Director and CEO Thomas P. Campbell is taking a 10 percent salary cut, and executive leadership is taking cuts of up to five percent. Eliminated positions will get up to six months severance and 90 days health insurance. (KQED)
The Seattle Art Museum furloughed or reduced hours for 76 employees. The job cuts come after the museum exhausted a $2.8 million PPP loan and additional support from board members. (Seattle Times)
The Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts laid off 38 workers, 15 percent of the 260-person staff, in anticipation of a $6 million drop in its $36 million budget, once its PPP loan (between $2 million and $5 million) ran out. Employees making over $110,000 are taking 10 to 25 percent pay cuts. (Boston.com)
Minnesota Historical Society laid off 176 employees and furloughed 139 workers. The organization had nearly 600 employees across its 26 sites before lockdown. (Star Tribune)
The National September 11 Memorial & Museum, New York, laid off 148 workers and furloughed 51 employees, out of a staff of 337, following a $4.6 million PPP loan. Pay cuts have been instituted across the board, with five percent for lower paid employees and up to 15 percent for the director, who made $530,000 as of 2018. Facing a deficit of up to $45 million, the museum has cut its annual operating expenses, formerly $80 million, by about 50 percent. (New York Times)
The Museum of Jewish Heritage, New York, cut 32 jobs, or more than 40 percent of the staff. The job losses, which come after the end of a PPP loan of $350,000 to $1 million, were in visitor services and tours. After initially stating that there would be no reductions to executive-level salaries, CEO Jack Kliger announced that he was taking a 15 percent pay cut and that there would be salary reductions for other management. (New York Times, Forward)
The Minneapolis Institute of Art cut 39 jobs from its staff of 250, slicing its projected operating budget from $34 million to $30 million as its PPP loan ran out. Leaders at the museum had already taken a 15 percent pay cut. The job losses come despite a Change.org petition calling on the museum to retain all staff through board contributions and increased salary cuts. (Star Tribune)
The Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, laid off 33 people effective July 1, all visitor-facing staff. Executive director Mary Ceruti is taking a 20 percent pay cut, with 10 percent pay decreases for other senior leadership. The museum is projecting a $5.7 million drop in revenue, equivalent to 26 percent of last year’s operating budget. (Minnesota Post)
The Science History Institute, Philadelphia, laid off 14 full-time employees and two part-time employees of a staff of 85 after its $1 million-to-$2 million PPP loan expired. (Email)
The Philadelphia Museum of Art announced plans to eliminate more than 100 of its 481 jobs, or more than 20 percent of its staff, through a combination of furloughs, severance packages, and layoffs. The museum, which had received a PPP loan of between $5 million and $10 million, was predicting a $6.5 million shortfall in its $49 million budget for the 2021 fiscal year starting July 1, already down from $60 million in 2020. (The Philadelphia Inquirer)
The Brooklyn Museum laid off 26 full-time and three part-time employees, or seven percent of the 412-person staff. The museum had received a $4.5 million PPP loan. Its director and president took 25 percent pay reductions when the museum closed, and full time staff making over $75,000 are being partially furloughed (one day a week) until reopening. (Email)
The New Museum, New York, laid off 18 workers who had been among 41 staff members put on furlough in April, or 27 percent of full-time staff, on top of earlier reductions. After earlier reductions, only 56 of 137 staff members remain on payroll, including just seven union members from a unit of 84. The museum has cut the director’s salary by 30 percent, with 10 to 20 percent pay cuts for other executives. The museum received a PPP loan of between $1 million and $2 million in April. Health care for furloughed or laid off employees is being extended through August.
Reposted from KSMU
Meyer Library’s Special Collection contains one-of-a-kind materials, like letters from early Ozarks history, the newspapers from MSU’s founding, and the Rare Books Collection.
When campus closed down due to the coronavirus, Anne Baker, head of Special Collections at the library, said staff continued to check on the books “once in a while,” with campus being regularly patrolled by campus security. The archives remain locked anytime they’re not being used, and the library requires an MSU ID to enter.
Baker says the archives have adjusted their policies to keep staff and researchers safe.
“We’re looking at what we can do to minimize problems. We’re also looking at what other people in the profession are doing,” she told KSMU.
Also because of the pandemic, visitors can view the archives by appointment only. And anytime someone uses material, it’s quarantined for three days.
KSMU reached out to the Springfield Art Museum to ask about how it’s keeping its art safe. In an email, spokesman Joshua Best responded by saying: “The Museum doesn’t comment on our security policies and procedures in the media.”
Reposted from World Resources Institute
Flooding has already caused more than $1 trillion in losses globally since 1980, and the situation is poised to worsen: New analysis from WRI’s Aqueduct Floods finds that the number of people affected by floods will double worldwide by 2030.
According to data from the tool, which analyzes flood risks and solutions around the world, the number of people affected by riverine floods will rise from 65 million in 2010 to 132 million in 2030, and the number impacted by coastal flooding will increase from 7 million to 15 million. This is not only a threat to human lives, but to economies: The amount of urban property damaged by riverine floods will increase threefold — from $157 billion to $535 billion annually. Urban property damaged by coastal storm surge and sea level rise will increased tenfold — from $17 billion to $177 billion annually.
Flood risk is increasing dramatically due to heavier rains and storms fueled by climate change, socioeconomic factors such as population growth and increased development near coasts and rivers, and land subsidence driven by overdrawing groundwater. In places experiencing the worst flood risk, all three of these threats are converging, though the relative share of each varies by country.
India, Bangladesh and Indonesia, for example, have some of the largest populations affected by riverine and coastal floods each year. By 2030, these three countries will account for 44% of the world’s population annually affected by riverine floods, and 58% of population affected by coastal floods.
Even places you might not expect will see increased flood risk:
Climate change will intensify rainfall and coastal storm surge in some parts of the world, putting more people in harm's way. In Puerto Rico, for instance, climate change will be the number one driver of increased flood risk. By 2030, the expected annual population affected by riverine floods will double, while the expected annual damage to urban properties will increase $340 million. Heavier rains inland will drive around 51% of this increase.
The change to coastal communities will be even more pronounced. Currently, storm surge causes relatively little damage in Puerto Rico, thanks in part to strong flood-protection measures like dikes and levees. Existing coastal flood protection guards against 285-year floods (major floods with only a 0.35% probability of occurring). But with climate change causing more intense and frequent flooding, coastal flood protection could drop to only protect against 2-year floods (floods with up to a 50% probability of occurring). In other words, if left in its current state, Puerto Rico’s coastal flood protection will become effectively obsolete by 2030.
Growing populations and booming urban development in flood plains will increase both riverine and coastal flood risk in many countries. Even extremely water-stressed nations like Saudi Arabia will suffer. By 2030, 614,000 people in the country are expected to be affected by riverine floods annually — a tenfold increase from today’s risk — thanks largely to new development near rivers. Damage to urban property will increase by $1.6 billion annually.
Along the coast, 15,500 more people and $1.1 billion more in urban assets are expected to be affected annually by coastal floods by 2030. Urbanization accounts for 87% of this increased flood risk.
Additionally, subsidence — sinking in coastal cities, largely caused by the overexploitation of groundwater — will put an additional 2 million people at risk of coastal flooding in 2030. The United States is projected to see an additional $16 billion in flood damages to urban property annually by 2030, with $4 billion caused by subsidence. This is more subsidence-driven flood risk than any other country. Subsidence’s role in future flooding is the most pronounced in the country’s west coast, where groundwater pumping is common to supplement scarce surface water supplies.
Investing in protective measures like levees and dikes is not only important for safeguarding millions of people and their homes and businesses, but also to help grow economies. Aqueduct Floods allows decision-makers to assess the costs and benefits of adapting to riverine flood risk with flood protection infrastructure.
We found that, in many cases, flood protection measures offer a strong return on investment. For example, the three countries with the highest number of people affected by riverine flooding — India, Bangladesh and Indonesia — are all suitable candidates for riverine dikes. Every $1 spent on dike infrastructure in Bangladesh may result in $123 in avoided damages to urban property, when moving from the existing 3-year flood protection system to a 10-year flood protection system by 2050. This investment would reduce the likelihood of floods from 33% to 10%. In India, the investment is even more promising: Every $1 spent in India may result in $248 in avoided damages, when moving from the existing 11-year flood protection system to a 25-year flood protection system by 2050. In Indonesia, every $1 spent may result in $33 in avoided damages to urban property, when moving from the existing 10-year flood protection system to a 25-year flood protection system by 2050.
There are also job creation benefits. The costs for building flood defenses are not just a one-off capital investment; they require maintenance, which creates long-term jobs that stay in the local community. As governments look to rebuild their economies in the wake of COVID-19, investments in flood protection could be an important component of stimulus packages.
And built infrastructure like levees and dikes aren’t the only investments worth considering. Green infrastructure like mangroves, reefs and sand dunes act as natural buffers to coastal storms. Intact forests prevent erosion and can reduce landslides. Protecting and restoring this natural infrastructure offers flood protection and other benefits like water filtration and reduced greenhouse gas emissions.
Governments can pair natural ecosystems with more traditional gray infrastructure like embarkments and levees, called gray-green infrastructure. In the face of multiplying threats from climate change, gray-green infrastructure is a resilient, high-performing solution that also creates jobs.
Increasing investment in flood protection infrastructure and combining these methods will be necessary as climate change, socioeconomic growth and subsidence increase flood risk worldwide.
Reposted from Nature News
Researchers in Brazil are sifting through the ashes of a fire that destroyed part of a museum in the southeastern state of Minas Gerais on 15 June. The blaze follows repeated warnings about fire risks at museums, and comes less than two years after a massive inferno gutted the prized National Museum in Rio de Janeiro.
The latest fire has reopened wounds in the research community and intensified a national conversation about the need to protect Brazil’s cultural and scientific heritage.
Mariana Lacerda, a geographer at the Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG) in Belo Horizonte, received a disturbing Monday-morning call: a building at the university’s Natural History Museum and Botanical Garden, which she’d directed for almost a year, was in flames. When she arrived on the scene, smoke was still coming out of a single-storey building that housed thousands of artefacts, skeletal remains and taxidermied animals, many collected several decades ago.
Two storage rooms full of fossils and large archaeological objects were covered in soot and smoke. Flames had partly consumed a third room, which housed folk art, Indigenous artefacts and biological specimens. Two further rooms, housing important collections of insects, shells, birds, mammals, human bones and ancient plant remains were almost completely lost.
For these, “little hope remains of material that can be recovered”, Lacerda says. “Something that is so slow to build was destroyed so quickly, in just over an hour.”
Archaeologist André Prous, who started working at the museum in 1975, was devastated. He and his colleagues had amassed a collection of human remains from a range of periods, including some from the earliest known inhabitants of Brazil, as well as samples of cultivated and wild plant species. Prous had also seen part of his life’s work disappear during the 2018 fire at the National Museum, when ancient skulls that he helped to collect in the 1970s were destroyed.
“The sadness is matched only by the fear that other, similar disasters will continue to destroy [Brazil’s] scientific heritage,” he says. Some stone artefacts, ceramics and documentation of the sites he has excavated survived the blaze.
Brazilian museums have faced a series of fires, often resulting in irreparable losses, says Carolina Vilas Boas, director of museum processes at the Brazilian Institute of Museums in Brasilia. At least 12 buildings of cultural or scientific significance have burnt in the country, many of them in the past 10 years (see ‘History in flames’). But the full extent of the damage is hard to know, says Vilas Boas, because reporting is probably incomplete.
Brazil is not unique in losing heritage institutions to fire, she says, but the country does have a poor record in taking care of its museums. Often, fire-prevention systems are installed, but budgets are too thin to maintain them properly. “There are many actions being taken to mitigate this risk,” she says, but recurring economic crises have hindered long-term planning.
“That lack of resources had no relation to the fire in the collection’s storage rooms,” says Ricardo Hallal Fakury, a structural-engineer at the UFMG. He did not speculate as to the cause of the fire, because investigations are still under way. But he says that the building that burnt was equipped with smoke detectors, and was mostly built of non-flammable materials.
The tragedy in Belo Horizonte has amplified a decades-long discussion among Brazilian scientists pushing for national and state-level policies to help protect research collections, says Luciane Marinoni, an entomologist at the Federal University of Paraná and president of the Brazilian Society of Zoology, both in Curitiba. “The community is upset because we have been trying to solve this problem with the federal government but without success.”
Back in Belo Horizonte, scientists are cleaning up after the fire. This time, however, they have some guidance on how to move forward.
National Museum researchers have teamed up with Lacerda to advise on the recovery of items that might still be salvageable. They are sharing protocols they developed after the 2018 blaze with UFMG professors and students who have volunteered to help. “Unfortunately, we are now experts in this matter,” says palaeontologist Alexander Kellner, director of the National Museum. “We went through it. We know the mistakes to avoid, we have a way to act, we have a methodology.”
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