INTERNATIONAL FOUNDATION FORCULTURAL PROPERTY PROTECTION
Reposted from AAM
Dear Museum Community,
The violence and chaos that ensued in our nation’s capital on January 6 was horrifying and reprehensible, and a clear attack on our democracy and society propagated by deliberate deception and misinformation from elected officials. On a day that the United States recorded the most COVID-19 deaths in a single day so far, rioters invaded the U.S. Capitol building in an effort to overturn the unambiguous results of our presidential election resulting in the additional tragic loss of lives.
Museums serve millions of people of all backgrounds and political persuasions in communities across the country, who cast their vote on Election Day. Regardless of whom their ballots favored, our support for the democratic process and the peaceful transition of power must be unequivocal.
There is no doubt that systemic racism and the consistent downplaying of the threat of white supremacy in the United States allowed for the security breach on the Capitol, a museum itself, to take place. The treatment of the rioters, many of whom bore clothing and paraphernalia symbolizing hate, violence, and white supremacy, highlights a pronounced double standard in how peaceful Black and brown protesters fighting for racial justice have been treated.
At this dark junction in our nation’s history, museums must lean into their missions and step up to the challenge ahead of us by fighting against white supremacy through educating our communities, building empathy, combating disinformation, and uplifting the stories and voices that have endured in the margins. As interpreters and educators of history and culture, museums and museum professionals have the power to uphold democracy and democratic norms, call out bigotry and hate, and fight for racial justice.
We thank our members of Congress who returned to the Capitol after rioters were cleared to resume the electoral college count and certify President-Elect Biden’s victory, the members of the media who stayed to accurately document this atrocity, and the museum professionals who are now assessing the impact to the Capitol’s collections.
It could not be clearer that it is time for lawmakers to unify around the certified election of President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris. Only united can we move forward to confront our nation’s many challenges, chief among them addressing systemic racism in the United States and ending the pandemic.
American Alliance of Museums
in partnership with
American Association for State and Local History
American Institute for Conservation
Association of Academic Museums and Galleries
Association of African American Museums
Association of Art Museum Directors
Association of Children’s Museums
Association of Midwest Museums
Association of Science and Technology Centers
Council of American Jewish Museums
Illinois Association of Museums
Museum Association of Arizona
Museum Association of New York
New England Museum Association
Western Museums Association
Southeastern Museums Conference
The Association of Art Museum Curators
The California Association of Museums
Utah Museums Association
Visitor Studies Association
If you are an AAM Affiliate organization, or a state or regional museum association, and would like to sign onto this statement, please contact AAM Director of Marketing & Communications, Natanya Khashan.
See Original Post
Reposted from Campus Safety Magazine
Physical threats are increasing in frequency and becoming more unmanageable, putting unprecedented financial, reputational and liability pressures on organizations’ leadership and security teams, according to the “2021 State of Protective Intelligence Report: A Mandate for Proactive Protective Intelligence in the Era of Exponential Physical Security Threats,” a new study commissioned by the Ontic Center for Protective Intelligence.
As physical security operations budgets are expected to increase in 2021, driven and accelerated by COVID-19, the study showcases the collective perspectives of chief security officers, chief legal officers, chief compliance officers and physical security decision-makers — on their physical security operations, what keeps them up at night, challenges and opportunities they foresee in 2021, and the pressing need for physical security modernization through technology.
Business continuity is at the heart of physical security concerns and 69% of security, legal, compliance and physical security executives say their leadership would agree it will be impossible for their company to recover financially and reputation-wise were a fatality to occur as a result of missed physical threats. But the reality is they are already teetering on the brink of inadequately protecting many aspects of their businesses.
“This study shows that every business leader should be sounding an alarm and looking to protective intelligence to truly transform their ability to proactively see around corners, to identify, assess and act on threats that can have irreparable human and business costs,” says Fred Burton, executive director of the Ontic Center for Protective Intelligence. “We are at a critical inflection point, and security leaders should act judiciously, be emboldened to adopt a proactive protective intelligence strategy and help radically transform physical security — and our world — for the better.”
“We heard resoundingly from physical security decision-makers that technology to advance the effectiveness of physical security and mitigate violent threats is necessary for the future of their company,” says Lukas Quanstrom, CEO of Ontic. “When physical threats go unmanaged, it increases corporate risk, irrevocably impacting business continuity given the potential for deep financial impact. Our research shows that security, legal, compliance and risk leaders unanimously agree the time is now to invest in physical security digital transformation, and Ontic is proud to help pave the way for a new standard in protective intelligence innovation.”
A total of 300 respondents completed the survey, which was conducted between Oct. 13-30. These included chief security officers, chief legal officers, chief compliance officers, general counsels, corporate attorneys and physical security decision-makers at U.S. companies with more than 5,000 employees.
Reposted from The Art Newspaper
The cycle of museum openings and closings in the US continues to churn amid the pandemic, with five Philadelphia museums announcing today that they will once again welcome visitors this month.
Temporary closures were mandated in Philadelphia on 20 November in response to a rise in coronavirus cases but then lifted by the city for some organisations, including museums, effective today. All five museums plan to resume measures to protect visitors and staff members’ health and safety as they reopen their doors.
The Franklin Institute, a science museum and centre for science education and research, will reopen on Wednesday; the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Barnes Foundation and the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University will greet visitors starting on Friday. The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Artswill reopen on 21 January.
“With the advent of a new year, we are grateful for the opportunity to welcome our visitors once again,” the directors of the museums said in a joint statement. “Despite the continued challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, the resilience of the cultural sector shines through and cultural experiences remain essential to the well-being of the human spirit, providing inspiration, enrichment and rejuvenation.”
The statement was also joined by the Eastern State Penitentiary, which operates a historic site examining the crumbling prison's history and plans to reopen sometime in March. The Rodin Museum, overseen by the Philadelphia Museum of Art, will reopen later in the spring.
The picture on the East Coast of the US is spotty. Most major New York museums are currently open, with a notable exception being the two Smithsonian museums there. After closures lasting from mid-March to September, Boston museums shut their doors again in mid-December in response to renewed city restrictions while signalling that they were hoping to reopen in January. Washington institutions including the National Gallery of Art and the Smithsonian’s museums have been closed since late November after some phased reopenings.
The Baltimore Museum of Art closed on 25 November and plans to reopen on 16 January, and museums in the southeastern US mostly remain open. The picture varies significantly elsewhere across the country, with many institutions having reopened but Chicago museums, for example, having closed again in November in response to state restrictions and a majority of California museums closed under government mandates.
US museums are facing overwhelming financial challenges because of the pandemic, having lost revenue from admissions and retail sales as well as facilities rentals and on-site fundraising events. Nearly all are struggling to find a way forward.
Reposted from The Boston Globe
So what, exactly, are we in for in 2021? Think ahead to, say, the fall, and imagine heading back to the office. The morning train feels a little crowded for comfort but the sidewalks lack their old bustle, and your favorite lunch spot is long gone.
Most of your pals are working from home today — in houses weirdly quiet since the kids are back in school — so lunch out isn’t the same anyway.
After a one-on-one with the boss and some meetings via video, you head home about 1:30, pick up the kids, and get back on the laptop. After work, you go for a run. Your old gym didn’t survive the shutdown, either. Dinner is takeout from a neighborhood joint, then maybe some shopping: a virtual Target run at 10 p.m.
It sure should. But it will likely come in fits, with false starts and setbacks that may feel like 2020 all over again, long periods of muddling along broken by sudden bursts of new activity. Think Red Sox at Fenway, dinner out on a summer night, dropping off the kid on that first day of school — at an actual school. It will probably be December before we can all safely look back and exhale, just in time to ring out another year and genuinely look forward to the new.
That’s roughly the picture that emerges from more than 15 experts from various avenues of business and civic life in Boston whom the Globe interviewed about how they see the next 12 months unfolding.
To a person, they hold a fundamentally hopeful outlook for our region, but acknowledge there are huge unknowns. The effectiveness of vaccines, the appeal of cities as hubs for both commerce and culture, the prospect of more aid from Washington — all these and other variables could result in wild, abrupt swings in conditions and mood.
And 2021 will look very different for different people. Indeed, the gaps between the rich and poor will likely grow even wider. And countless decisions we all make — where to live, how to commute, whether to close a struggling restaurant — will collectively shape the fabric of Greater Boston, and its recovery.
And after the year we’ve just had, even hazarding a guess could be a fool’s game.
“Anybody who tells you they know how 2021 will go is crazy,” said veteran local developer Kirk Sykes, a former board chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston. “There are just so many variables.”
January: Dark times, as COVID-19 cases and deaths surge, and business restrictions stay in place. While new vaccines and a new president signal hope ahead, the toll of the pandemic is inescapable.
Restaurants and retailers that hung on for the holidays shut their doors, some forever. Logan Airport is ghostly. A few big-name companies dump their leases on downtown offices. The sidewalks are empty.
“I hate to say it,” said restaurant industry consultant Ed Doyle, “but things are going to get worse before they get better.”
February: Signs of life, as the post-holiday COVID surge ebbs and vaccine distribution ramps up, despite some hiccups.
Gyms and museums reopen and restaurants resume more in-person dining. College kids come back to the streets of Allston and Cambridge. Some school districts plan a post-Presidents Day return to in-person learning, and parents rejoice. Traffic on the highways, for once, is seen as a good thing.
But for workers who’ve long since lost jobs, a new start is still a mirage, likely months in the future. Yes, the stimulus bill passed by Congress at year’s end is helping, but the expanded unemployment benefits will lapse soon. Spring (and more stimulus money) can’t come soon enough.
March: The months are a blur, but March marks one year since everything changed. And while we’re impatient to get back to normal, the machinery of daily life isn’t ready yet. MBTA cuts make it hard for some to get to work. Schools are probably still doing remote learning at least some of the time. Grocery store employees, delivery drivers, hospital janitors, and others still going into work have to dig deeper for child care and transportation.
“All the things that you need to get back to work, it’s on [essential workers’] backs with little to no support,” said Phyllis Barajas, chief executive of Conexión, a mentoring and advancement program for Hispanic and Latino business leaders. “Except for their drive to take care of their family, keep food on the table and a roof over their heads.”
April: Hope springs eternal, but it arrives with the warm weather carrying a mixed bag. The economic divide laid bare by the pandemic threatens to widen. Home prices keep surging, thanks to low interest rates and a still-strong economy for white-collar workers. But unemployed hospitality workers, Uber drivers, and others at the mercy of the service economy find themselves pushed from their homes as evictions surge.
And the binding rituals of a Boston spring — like the Marathon — are missing again this year.
This is also supposed to be the time the vaccines roll out to the general public. But any setback has people on edge, said venture capitalist David Frankel of Founder Collective, and suddenly the promise of spring appears to be fading.
”You could easily see somewhere a real psychological shift,” he said. A slower-than-expected return to normalcy “could wipe out the good will that I think will accrue as you see more people vaccinated.”
May: Finally, a sign: The Red Sox, the season delayed a few weeks, hold Opening Day at Fenway Park — with fans, though at reduced capacity. College graduation ceremonies — outdoors, of course — help to fill hotels desperate for visitors. Warmer temperatures and longer evenings bring a resurgence in outdoor dining. Suddenly it’s hard to get a table.
There’s also more work for people, at both ends of the job ladder. Big drugmakers announce plans for new buildings, while laid-off wait staff and hotel workers take up retraining opportunities to become electricians and HVAC technicians. Technical schools see a surge in applications.
“That part of the workforce has remained robust,” said Aisha Francis, chief executive of Ben Franklin Institute of Technology. “We need to figure out how to train people faster.”
June: Tourist sighting in the North End! As travel restrictions ease, the streets of downtown Boston are dotted with visitors, meandering along the Freedom Trail and queueing for the whale watch boats. Hotels begin to fill, and the stores and bars around Faneuil Hall that managed to survive celebrate the end of a long, cold winter.
For us locals, summer day camps fill fast, and if you thought it was hard to rent a house on the Cape last summer, well, good luck this year. With a year under their belt to plan, public spaces like Boston Common and the Lawn on D spring back to life with vibrant — though still socially distanced — events and concerts.
“It will be a time of great urban celebration,” said Carlo Ratti, professor of urban technologies and planning at MIT.
July: While the streets are livelier, the office towers of downtown Boston and Kendall Square remain quiet; some companies commit to remote work indefinitely, a few have moved to the suburbs. Some have also downsized, retooling their smaller offices to be less the center of company life, and more the occasional hangout.
“It’s going to be collaborative space, with collaborative tech. Screens, new systems for hybrid meetings,” said Arlyn Vogelmann, a principal at design firm Gensler Boston. “People won’t just come in and sit at a desk all day.”
August: One slice of Boston’s economy is growing fast: Life sciences. The same technology that quickly created vaccines for COVID-19 is now tackling a host of difficult diseases, and it’s all happening here.
“There are going to be breathtaking things that will happen in science this year,” said Tim Ritchie, president of the Museum of Science. “And Boston is the life science capital of the world.”
That’s apparent along Fort Point Channel, where politicians and pharmaceutical executives gather to celebrate the start of construction of a tower once planned as the world headquarters for General Electric. Instead, it will be home to a drug company, one of dozens of life science groundbreakings around Boston this year. As the ceremonial dirt flies, everyone wears a mask.
September: A duck boat parade celebrating front line workers on Labor Day is nixed. Too risky. But the vaccine is now well into general distribution, and for many people, this is the month life finally starts to feel normal again.
Most crucially, schools are back. There are masks and social distancing and COVID testing for teachers and students alike. But public schools across Greater Boston at last return to in-person classes. But there is so much catching up to do, with districts struggling to resolve the huge disparities exposed, and deepened, by kids who’ve missed so much regular school.
“I expect different states and even different communities to do this at different paces,” said Will Austin, chief executive of the nonprofit Boston Schools Fund. “Because as much as we want to say this stuff is scientific, a lot of it is political.”
With kids in school, more parents are back at work in person, part of a broader return-to-the-office that picks up speed in the fall. It’s not the typical post-Labor-Day rush, but downtown feels the busiest it has been in 18 months, with new restaurants and bars starting to open. Jobs come back too, though the biggest help-wanted ads come from Amazon, gearing up for an online-shopping season to dwarf this past year’s. Some new habits die hard.
October: Life back at the office isn’t quite the same. Many white-collar workers are on hybrid schedules, working from home one or two days a week. No one’s jetting in from Chicago for a meeting that can happen on Zoom. Conventions? Maybe next year. So parts of the economy remain down, particularly the hard-hit hospitality sector and downtown restaurants that relied on expense account business dinners.
But even in travel, there’s hope, as a few of the city’s signature events — maybe the Marathon, or the Head of the Charles — finally get back on track.
“The vaccine rollout will have been a success if those events happen,” said Carlos Aramayo, president of hospitality-workers union Unite Here Local 26. “And if those events happen, that’s great for our members, because that means a lot of other things are going to be happening.”
November: Dare we say, life in Boston is starting to feel somewhat . . . normal? The Celtics and Bruins fill TD Garden again. Concert venues come back on line and a wave of pop-up stores open downtown. Logan Airport bustles at Thanksgiving. No one’s skipping the holidays this year.
By now, some are even able to look back on the pandemic as a missed opportunity, a squandered chance to reset how Boston functions, for the better. There was no big rethinking how we create affordable housing, or use public space, no mass buildout of bus lanes in the quiet, traffic-free months of the pandemic.
“We never made any meaningful changes that would change behavior, and the way people get around the city,” said Stacy Thompson, executive director of transit advocacy group Livable Streets Alliance. “Because of that, the unevenness of our system feels profound.”
Still, the vaccine has largely done its job. Along with our annual flu shot, we all get a COVID booster, and go about our lives. After the last 18 months, that feels like a win.
December: We’re already looking ahead to next year. If 2020 was a mess, and 2021 was a stop-and-start recovery, we all think 2022 is when things get moving again for real.
With more people coming in to work, holiday parties feel like a just reward. There’s some of the usual Christmas bustle at hotels and event businesses. New restaurants experiment with different formats — though takeout and outdoor seating are here to stay. Neighborhood joints thrive.
While there’s so much left to rebuild — and still 200,000 fewer jobs than before the pandemic — hiring is picking up speed, and finally, COVID feels like a thing of the past. After nearly two years of trying to stay afloat, companies and people are looking forward again. Indeed, ideas we haven’t even thought of yet are starting to bloom.
“On the other side of this are some amazing opportunities,” said Doyle, the restaurant consultant. “This is a forest fire. Everything is going to burn down. And out of those ashes are going to come some new sprouts that could never have seen the light of day.”
Reposted from Artnet News
Earlier this week, a life-sized bronze statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee was unceremoniously removed from the U.S. capitol more than a century after it was installed. But just as quickly as the question over the controversial sculpture’s fate was resolved, another one popped up: Where does it go now?
It’s a question haunting many monuments toppled in 2020. In this case, the simple answer is the Virginia Museum of History and Culture in Richmond, where it arrived Tuesday morning. More complicated, though, is what the museum, which is currently closed for renovation, will do with it.
“Since we first learned that the statue may come to the museum, we had always intended to display it,” Andrew Talkov, the museum’s senior director of curatorial affairs, tells Artnet News. “There was never a thought of simply putting it in storage and hiding or holding onto it simply for posterity.”
Indeed, when the museum reopens in the spring of 2022, one of the most divisive symbols in the ongoing debate over historical public statuary will be on full display, likely in a larger exhibition about the history and evolution of “Confederate memorialization, from a variety of viewpoints,” Talkov says.
But display does not equal endorsement, the curator is quick to clarify. “We’re not going to decide,” he says. “It’ll be our society that decides how they want to handle these types of monuments in the future.”
Though programming plans are in the early stages, the curator says he intends to present the statue in a balanced, historically-informed manner. It won’t be neutral, but it won’t be geared toward the polemical either.
The goal, he says, is to “connect our past with our present. It’s difficult to understand why the monument was removed if we don’t understand how the monument came to be in the first place,” he says.
Created in 1909 by Richmond sculptor Edward Virginius Valentine, the Lee statue stood for 111 years as one of two sculptures representing Virginia in the U.S. Capitol’s National Statuary Hall. Specifically, it was located in the building’s crypt, where 13 statues represent the original 13 colonies.
An eight-person commission established by Virginia Governor Ralph Northam to remove the statue selected the museum as its new permanent home. The formal request came in August and contained no stipulations about whether or not it should be displayed, or in. what manner.
The museum was a logical fit for the statue, in part because its building is itself a Confederate monument—or at least it used to be. The museum is housed in the Confederate Memorial Institute (colloquially known as the “Battle Abbey”), a structure built in 1921 as a memorial to the Confederate lives lost during the Civil War. The building was acquired in 1946 by the museum, then known as the Virginia Historical Society. Prior to that, the society was headquartered in the Lee House, a Richmond building that housed General Lee and his family during the war.
When the Lee statue goes on display, there’s a good chance other symbols of 2020 will be included alongside it. Among the objects to enter into the museum’s collection this year are a used can of tear gas, a demonstrator’s broken face shield, and several protest signs and posters.
“I can’t imagine we would have a conversation about Confederate memory without talking about the events of the summer of 2020,” Talkov says.
“History museums are an excellent place to be able to look at where we are,” he continues, “and I think the statue is an incredible symbol of where we are as a society in regard to confederate memory and monumentation. That’s a conversation we want to welcome into the museum.”
Reposted from The New York Times
It was sometime in the spring that Ruth Willig, then 96, first compared her pandemic life to being in prison. My mother, Dorothy, was still alive then, in a building much like the assisted-living facility in Brooklyn where Ruth lives. The buildings had shut down all visitors and stopped all group activities, including meals in the dining room. Residents spent their days in their apartments, alone.
“It’s very depressing,” Ruth said over the telephone in late March. At that time, the virus was raging in New York, most lethally in nursing homes. Facilities that were designed to prevent social isolation were now doing everything possible to enforce it.
“Two nights ago they came to my door and told me I couldn’t go outside,” Ruth said then. “I don’t know what reason there is, or if anybody has it in the building. They don’t tell you anything. But we’re stuck here. They bring the food. It’s just awful.”
That was how the pandemic began for Ruth Willig, the last surviving subject of a New York Times series that began nearly six years ago, following the lives of six people age 85 and up.
For Ruth, it was a year measured in what she gave up: visits from her children every weekend, daily meals with friends, chances to see her great-granddaughter, now 3 years old and changing daily. Also: Passover, Thanksgiving, her birthday and perhaps her last days of walking without a walker, even in her small apartment.
Her building’s management declined to provide numbers, but records at the State Department of Health show five deaths there either confirmed or presumed to have been caused by Covid-19. At my mother’s building, in Lower Manhattan, the count was three times as high.
“I say, ‘Why do I have to keep going?’” Ruth said back in the spring. “Judy” — her oldest daughter — “says, ‘Ma, if you die now we won’t be able to have a funeral. I won’t be able to see you.’” Ruth laughed. “That’s a terrible way to put it, but she’s right,” she said. “Meanwhile, I’m not dying. I guess it’s good. I laugh and I say I’m ready, but I’m really not.”
Her complaints over the next months were the same as my mother’s: the edict to shut down contact with other people, the food delivered cold to their rooms.
As Ruth’s building allowed a little more mobility over the summer, she became aware of the neighbors whom she did not see. “I don’t know if they’re alive or how their health is,” she said. “You have to ask, and they don’t always want to tell you. So we don’t always know. If I walk around I see a lot of empty rooms.”
The pandemic has wrought unequal effects on New York’s population groups. For older adults in institutional settings, it has meant ceding even more control of their lives to the institutions, unasked, in exchange for safety.
“It’s very paternalistic,” said Louise Aronson, a geriatrician and professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. “Like, we know what’s better for you. I get that the intent is good. But it’s basically putting draconian measures onto frail older people for society’s failure to create better systems.”
Ruth, who trained as a microbiologist, understood the restrictions but resented them.
“I’d like more freedom to get around,” she said. “I look out at the water and see these people walking back and forth, and I wish, Oh, my God, wouldn’t that be nice.”
The hairdresser and the rabbi stopped coming to the building. The meals, the bane of most institutions, were even less appealing without a companion at the table. Ruth lost weight.
But one day, amid complaints, she said: “I get my joy out of my plants, I really do. My Christmas cactus has four or five flowers.” She read Michelle Obama’s memoir, then Barack’s.
A surprise of the pandemic has been how well many older adults have adapted to the restrictions. “There’s crisis competence,” said Mark Brennan-Ing, a senior research scientist at Hunter College’s Brookdale Center for Healthy Aging. “As we get older, we get the sense that we’re going to be able to handle it, because we’ve been able to handle challenges in the past. You know you get past it. These things happen, but there’s an end to it, and there’s a life after that.”
While people of all ages have struggled this year, those 65 and up are still more likely to rate their mental health as excellent compared with people under 50.
For Ruth and her family, efforts to stay connected came with frustrations. Her children bought her an iPad so they could share video calls, but for months she kept it in the packaging because it was unappealing or hard to use.
She eventually started using it to play Cryptic Quotes, and occasionally for FaceTime calls.
In the spring, the only way Judy Willig could see her mother was on what she called “window visits,” at which they would talk via cellphone from opposite sides of the glass.
“That was the worst,” Judy said. “She’d reach her hand out to touch you, and there was glass between us. I would do those window visits and then go sit in my car and cry. They were just awful.”
Early in the pandemic, Ruth’s closest friend in the building stopped answering her phone. Since Ruth could not leave her apartment to check, for days she was left to wonder: Had her friend gotten the virus? Finally the friend called from a rehab center, and they resumed daily calls. But it was a scare.
A part of writing these articles, which began in 2015, has been learning to say goodbye. By the start of 2020, five of the six subjects — Fred Jones, John Sorensen, Jonas Mekas, Ping Wong and Helen Moses — had died, each facing the last days differently. For all, death meant not just the final heartbeat of one person, but a communal process that began well before the last breath and continued after.
The coronavirus, even when it spared a body in 2020, ravaged the rest of this process.
On May 30, my mother developed a urinary tract infection and went to the hospital in Lower Manhattan, where I was able to sit with her indoors for the first time in nearly three months. She made it back home but never recovered her strength, and in late June, when it became clear that she wouldn’t, her building let me visit in her final days. My brothers, in North Carolina and Oklahoma, who had not seen her since 2019, could not come to say goodbye.
Ruth was among the first to call me when my mother died.
As case numbers dropped in New York, in late August, Ruth’s building allowed family members to visit — outside, at opposite sides of a long table.
Her building started to open the dining room partially in September. A few times a week, Ruth goes downstairs and eats a meal by herself at a table, six feet away from her closest friend. It is near enough that they can talk a little, even with hearing aids. Intermittently the dining room will close again because someone in the building tests positive. But on days when Ruth dines downstairs, Judy said, she can notice the difference in her mother’s voice. “She’s much more alive,” Judy said.
In November, a day before her 97th birthday, Ruth fell in her apartment and hit her head, telephoning Judy from the floor when she could not get up. Mother and daughter were finally able to spend time together, four hours in the hospital emergency room.
By the time Ruth fell again a few weeks later, she had learned a lesson: “This time I wasn’t going to tell anyone, because I didn’t want to go back to the hospital,” she said. “You should’ve seen how I managed to get up. I moved around on my behind, otherwise known as my tush. And I had black and blue marks all over my elbows, and I managed to get up without calling anybody. I’m a stubborn mule.”
After the second fall, a physical therapist advised her to use a walker even in the apartment.
Just before her birthday, Ruth mentioned the prospect of living to 100 — a change from our past conversations, when she had said only that she did not want to get there. That same day she brought it up again with her daughter. “For the first time ever she said, ‘Maybe I’ll live to be 100, and if I do, we can have a party,’” Judy Willig said.
At last, on Dec. 7, the building opened for a few visitors — with an appointment and a negative test for the virus. Judy grabbed the first appointment, in order to get in before someone in the building tested positive and the doors shut again.
She was given one hour. She had a long list of chores, starting with Ruth’s closet.
“Mostly we hugged,” Ruth said, “which we haven’t been able to do forever.”
Judy Willig remembered it slightly differently. After 15 minutes of hugging, she said, “I finally had to say, ‘Now I only have 45 minutes left.’ And she said, ‘Can’t we just sit and talk?’ And I said, ‘Not today.’ Because my fear is that they’re going to shut it down again.”
The visit and the meals downstairs have made a difference for Ruth. “The nice thing is that things are getting a little better,” she said. “I’m lucky in one way that I can heat up the meals myself, but in the other way it’s nice when someone does it for you. So it’s like a tossup.”
My mother would have turned 92 on Dec. 21, largely against her wishes. Her remains rest atop a bookshelf in my bedroom, next to an action figure of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, waiting for a time our family can gather to scatter them.
Because of the pandemic, the medical school to which she had promised her body was no longer accepting them. The cemetery did not allow gatherings, so on a sweltering morning in early July, five of us said a few words over her in the loading bay behind the crematory, before her body went inside. The experience was probably worse for my brothers, who watched it on Zoom, but it would be hard to say how.
Her two home attendants, amazing women who traveled long distances to care for her during the pandemic, are still without work, their informal job network another casualty of the virus.
But for Ruth and others who made it this far, a better day was in sight: The first vaccine doses had started to reach nursing home residents.
Four years ago, at the end of 2016, Ruth wanted to knit a blanket for her coming great-grandchild, but she feared that the tremor in her hands would prevent her. She knitted it anyway. This year, during the pandemic, she was knitting again.
That is Ruth, 2020.
Catherine Thurston, chief program officer at Service Program for Older People, which provides mental health services, said her staff had seen this kind of resilience in many older clients this year.
“They’ve been a real lesson for us,” she said. “I often tell the story of my own parents, who were Holocaust survivors. And after 9/11 it was so good to talk to them, because they said, ‘Look, horrible stuff happens, and people rebound from it.’”
A motto to take into the new year: Horrible stuff happens, and people rebound from it.
And eventually, at Ruth Willig’s assisted living facility, the hairdresser will make a long-awaited return. “I really need a haircut so badly,” she said.
Reposted from The Washington Post
In Prince George’s County, where officials on Thursday halted indoor dining and ordered new caps on crowds in retail businesses and casinos, the library system said Friday it too would shut down. The National Museum of the U.S. Army is temporarily closing, while NFL games at FedEx Field will be without spectators the rest of the season.
The greater Washington region added to its growing list of restrictions and closures this week — days that also coincided with the largest number of coronavirus infections since the start of the pandemic. The seven-day average of new cases across Virginia, Maryland and D.C. stood Friday at 6,887, down slightly from Thursday’s record high.
In Prince George’s, library staff members who had been working in buildings to check out books to customers via curbside pickup service will work at home from Dec. 21 to Jan. 12, the library system announced.
“The public health conditions right now require that we adjust operations to keep staff and customers safe during the surge,” the county said in a statement.
Patrons can still check out e-books and audiobooks virtually, but cannot check out or return printed books or other physical materials.
The Prince George’s County library system, like others in the region, has offered curbside pickup but has not allowed patrons into buildings during the pandemic. D.C. is an exception: Many of its library branches have been open for limited book pickups and computer use since the summer, although librarians have expressed concern about their safety.
Infections have risen sharply across the region throughout the fall and as temperatures have turned colder.
As of Friday, the steepest weekly caseload rise was in Virginia, where 60 percent more infections were reported than the week before. The state’s average new daily case rate per 100,000 residents hit an all-time high of 46, with Maryland recording the same rate of spread. The District’s rate per 100,000 residents was 39 on Friday.
Virginia reported 3,395 new daily cases and 35 deaths from the virus Friday. Maryland reported 2,616 cases and 52 deaths, and D.C. reported 259 cases and one death.
The region’s leaders have responded to the surge in infections by introducing new restrictions throughout the week. Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) announced a nighttime curfew Thursday. D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) banned high school sports and recreational contact sports Monday.
Some Maryland jurisdictions announced bans on indoor dining and lower caps at retail establishments in a week that included a joint call with leaders of the state’s eight most populous localities.
In Virginia, Army officials announced Friday that a coronavirus outbreak at the National Museum of the U.S. Army at Fort Belvoir will force it to temporarily close the facility, starting Monday.
In a statement, the Army said “a small number” of museum employees recently have tested positive. The museum sees as many as 560 visitors daily, officials said.
The museum will remain open Saturday and Sunday, with precautions that include timed entry tickets to reduce capacity.
A museum guard, who spoke on the condition of anonymity out of concern for his job security, said he is one of four guards who have tested positive since late November. His symptoms, including a fever and chills, have begun to subside.
“I’m in constant contact with the public,” said the guard.
The Washington Football Team also joined the parade of cancellations Friday, announcing that after discussing the safety of allowing fans in the stadium with the Prince George’s County Health Department, the team decided to play its remaining two home games in front of empty seats.
Reposted from AAM
With rising sea levels and stronger floods and hurricane seasons, priceless cultural sites and museum collections around the world are increasingly under threat from severe weather events and the impacts of climate change. A recent and seminal report in the journal Nature Communications, for instance, found that thirty-seven out of forty-nine UNESCO World Heritage sites in coastal Mediterranean areas face substantial flood risks. For another perspective, consider Boston, home to numerous waterfront museums, where water levels are predicted to rise more than two feet over the next several decades. Or New York City, where cultural sites are currently at risk from floods and rising sea levels—especially in Lower Manhattan and around all of the island’s edges.
The challenges are formidable and go beyond these examples. With that in mind, the question for institutional leaders and their consultant teams is an existential one: How can we adapt our facilities to meet this challenge?
Museum planners will encounter the threat of severe weather firsthand, as Renzo Piano Building Workshop, in collaboration with our firm Cooper Robertson, did in planning the Whitney Museum of American Art. When Superstorm Sandy hit New York in 2012, the museum was well under construction in the Meatpacking District adjacent to the Hudson River, and although its structure held up well, the storm surge brought over six million gallons of river water into the building’s thirty-foot-deep basement. Our team had to re-evaluate our flood protection plans—and the resulting design offers a useful case study for museum leaders. The lessons applied include how best to assess flood risk, as well as specific design strategies for incorporating barrier systems and rethinking space planning and interior layouts.
Among the most valuable takeaways and solutions from this project are those laid out in this article.
Any planning and design approach should prioritize capital resources to first address life safety, then protect and preserve collections, and finally maintain building integrity. Accomplishing this, however, depends on a clear understanding and definition of the actual risks facing a given building, which can be difficult to ascertain. Project teams often use flood maps and related projections as the baseline resources to assess the risk of flooding, in terms of sea level rise and severe weather events, but our experience shows that you can’t assume current maps will tell the full story.
Before Hurricane Sandy, the Whitney’s original design elevated the lobby to ten feet, an additional foot above the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s recommendation. This was based on projections for a five-hundred-year storm, but the hurricane made clear it was not enough. Following the storm, FEMA revised its flood zone maps, recommending a 13.5-foot elevation for construction on the Whitney’s site. Seeing this, and sensing the revised elevation could still not be conservative enough, the project team realized it was crucial to work with outside consultants who could help model all possible scenarios. After an international search, the team ultimately selected WTM Engineers from Hamburg, Germany, and their partner, the Franzius Institute for Hydraulic, Waterways, and Coastal Engineering of the Leibniz University in Hanover—two organizations well-versed in protecting urban environments from flooding.
After an extensive study of New York Harbor and its environmental history, the Franzius Institute’s team recommended that the museum building actually be protected up to a 16.5-foot elevation. With this new data in hand, the design team worked with WTM to create modifications for the new facility, both temporary and permanent, that could protect the Whitney’s structure from future storm events. The key lesson here was that the Whitney, like other cultural institutions, would need to thoroughly define the actual risks before specific design proposals could be developed and priced. Only then could the best approach truly be selected.
In the case of a flooding event, the main goal is to preserve the integrity of the museum facility’s ground floor as completely as possible, which ensures that the rest of the building is safeguarded too. Design and facilities teams should examine all possible water infiltration points. Reinforced walls and substantial waterproof membranes are crucial, and the architects for the new Whitney Museum recommend waterproofing at the foundation to seal any concrete penetrations made for electrical conduits, gas service, electrical service, and piping.
But not all flood barriers need to be permanent interventions. Temporary barriers play an important role too, and can be easier to retrofit at existing buildings. For the Whitney, the design team devised a movable protective system that can be easily deployed in anticipation of major flooding. In the hours preceding a storm event, a Whitney staff member will transport temporary barriers—horizontal aluminum “logs”—from a nearby warehouse and fasten them onto vertical aluminum posts bolted into a continuous concrete curb on the building’s plaza. These temporary barriers protect the lobby’s large expanses of glass walls, which play an important role in the institutional mission of openness but leave the building vulnerable to pressurized water.
Design teams should also note that flood preparation requires extensive structural reinforcement to the surrounding site. Working with structural engineers Silman, the Whitney team heavily reinforced the museum plaza’s concrete to accommodate the additional water weight of a storm surge. The plaza’s drainage system was also redesigned by engineers Jaros Baum & Bolles, so that any water which might either leak or splash over the temporary barriers can drain away from the dry, protected area on the building side of the walls.
Looking beyond the building envelope, a holistic approach to flood protection and mitigation may also require rethinking common layouts and space planning practices, with elevation as a key goal. One of the Whitney building’s most forward-thinking design elements, for instance, is the absence of any permanent galleries or art storage on the lower levels—all art galleries begin on the fifth floor and extend upward. Prioritizing elevation this way, however, poses a challenge for many museums—especially those in historic buildings, where storage areas, gallery space, and the mechanical systems that support them are often located below-grade or within the floodplain, usually in cellars. Where possible and in locations most at risk, museum leaders should consider reconfiguring layouts to raise the majority, or all, of these spaces to a safe elevation. For now, this is an advisable but generally elective step for existing structures. Eventually, however, as climate change impacts continue to grow in seriousness, building codes may compel museums to retrofit their facilities and elevate critical uses above the potential water line.
Even if relocating mechanical equipment to a different space within the museum facility is not feasible in the short or medium term, it’s important to find ways to maintain continuity of service in the event of a superstorm. As a first step, any mechanical equipment within a flood area should be protected with barriers. Design and facilities teams can create curbs around mechanical rooms, or within the room to elevate equipment. Even a slight increase in elevation can make a big difference—not to mention a positive impact—when it comes to obtaining or maintaining flood insurance. Our design team has seen many institutions raise equipment on concrete platforms four to six inches above the floor; at the Whitney, the project team mandated a minimum elevation of fourteen inches for electrical equipment. This figure resulted from precise calculations to account for numerous flood event scenarios, including the failure of various functions. For example, if the water pumps should fail, it was determined that roughly ten inches of water could flood the basement.
Facilities teams should also consider how long their institution’s backup generator can run, and what is included in their emergency power supply network. From both a life safety and collections preservation standpoint, it’s crucial to keep the environmental controls and conditions consistent for as long as possible. The Whitney project team came up with forty-eight hours as a benchmark. For most institutions dependent on public utilities, the implications of a public grid outage can be severe, and it’s especially crucial to have contingencies in place. Although this is less of an issue for academic museums, which can often take advantage of robust campus utilities, auxiliary power is still an important consideration, and any facilities team should have generators and backup systems.
At the Whitney, these considerations inspired an additional change to the original building design and a rethinking of the museum’s emergency energy sources. Instead of the thousand-gallon diesel fuel oil tank originally planned for the museum, the Whitney’s insurance advisors suggested accommodating the largest tank possible. Now, the building has a four-thousand-gallon tank, which provides as much emergency fuel as possible. This allows the building’s systems—particularly the pump system—to run for a far greater duration than originally planned.
As museum leaders—along with their facilities teams, architects, and other consultants—come face-to-face with a future likely to be marked by increased storms and flooding, a smart design approach to resiliency will be essential. By considering these strategies now, it’s possible to stem the tide of rising waters, while also giving staff (and visitors, trustees, and artists) peace of mind that their cultural home will be able to withstand future unprecedented weather events.
More than 60 museum experts from five continents came together on 16-18 November to participate in Reframing Museums, a virtual symposium organised by Louvre Abu Dhabi and New York University Abu Dhabi. Speakers included the directors of the Musée du Louvre in Paris, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg, the Museum of Black Civilisations in Dakar, the not-yet-open Lucas Museum in Los Angeles and Zayed National Museum in Abu Dhabi. The event marked Louvre Abu Dhabi’s third anniversary and NYU Abu Dhabi’s tenth anniversary.
Although the talks were centred around the three broad themes of museum collections, buildings and people, there was undoubtedly one overarching subject of discussion: the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. The symposium offered an insight into how museums worldwide are grappling with the immediate financial and social challenges of the pandemic, but also raised questions about their longer-term future.
The mass closure of cultural institutions under coronavirus restrictions presents an opportunity for museums to “reframe themselves”, said Mariët Westermann, the vice chancellor of NYU Abu Dhabi. “How were they missed when they were gone, and what did they learn about their relevance that can help them be vital, vibrant, and meaningful places?”
For those who missed out on the live Zoom event, the organisers have made recordings of all the sessions available on a dedicated Reframing Museums YouTube channel. Here, we break down some of the key takeaways from the talks.
Exhibition formats will need to be rethought but seeing shows in the flesh will be more important than ever in the wake of the coronavirus crisis, said a panel of speakers participating in the roundtable discussion The Future of Exhibitions in a Post-Pandemic World.
Chris Dercon, the president of the Grand Palais in Paris, said that the public is tiring of digital content, which proliferated during the first lockdown. “I think we need museums to have physical encounters not just with the works, but also with other visitors.” He also asked: “Do we continue to upload endless digital content without a system of monetisation?”
But social distancing measures have led to the “collapse” of the Grand Palais’s blockbuster exhibition model, Dercon said; for example, a recent show of archaeological treasures from Pompeii could only receive 210 visitors at any one time.
Hervé Barbaret, the director general of Agence-France Muséums, questioned the relevance of large loan exhibitions. “Can we think about making exhibitions more in relation to permanent collections? Sometimes exhibitions have been criticised because of the blockbuster or entertainment side of them rather how they amplify the richness of the permanent collection,” Barbaret noted.
However, he defended the environmental cost of shipping art around the world for special exhibitions. “Probably it is more eco-friendly to have one work of art travelling to be seen by 10,000 people rather than 10,000 people travelling to see a work of art, that is the point of exhibitions.”
The panel discussion From Acquisition to Storytelling: What Does the Future Hold for Museum Collections? focused on how museums can deploy their permanent holdings for more “flexible” storytelling within their walls and to strengthen partnerships at a local level.
Michael Govan, the director of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (Lacma), said the Black Lives Matter movement “has touched museums very deeply” because they are “at the intersection of a certain amount of colonialist thinking”. Since the 19th century, Western art collections have reinforced “the Eurocentric point of view of the colonisers”, he noted, but a new generation of curators are calling “not to rethink the museum but tear it down and build it again”.
Govan is quite literally reconstructing Lacma, having demolished 30,000 sq. m of existing galleries to make way for a $750m building project by Peter Zumthor. The redesign will create multiple new narratives for the collection rather than replicating the traditional categories of geography or chronology, he said, describing a more “inclusive” kind of curating. “We have these artefacts and they tell many stories, not just one story. People want to think of museums as somehow objective but they’re not objective at all.”
Sheikha Hoor Al Qasimi, the president and director of the Sharjah Art Foundation, pointed out that the cost of shipping and insuring art is a barrier to non-profit institutions sharing their collections internationally. Govan advocated instead for more local collaborations. “It is inexpensive and very effective to create collection sharing with university museums” in the same region, he said. Lacma is using such a network as “a laboratory for different thinking”.
Souraya Noujaim, the scientific, curatorial and collections management director at Louvre Abu Dhabi, said that the museum is going down the same path, sharing its collection “with our colleagues from the Emirates and the region”. After all, she said, “we don’t own the objects or the history, we just tell part of the story as we see it today”.
Covid-19 lockdowns have posed a fundamental threat to the revenues of museums, which depend on real-life visitors. The financial strain seems likely continue into the near future as international tourists stay away. The roundtable talk Modelling the Future: New Business Models for Museums asked how non-profit institutions can ensure their viability in the long term.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York has calculated its revenue loss for this year and next at “around $150m”, said the director Max Hollein. The sector worldwide is downsizing in the wake of the pandemic, noted Peter Keller, the director general of the International Council of Museums, citing its online surveys of 49,000 members in 140 countries. A major challenge is to establish “hybrid business models that will enable the development of a sustainable cultural scene”, said Saood Al Hosani, the acting undersecretary of Abu Dhabi’s Department of Culture and Tourism.
“The three pillars—events, sponsorship and ticketing—are not enough,” according to the French tech entrepreneur Frédéric Jousset, a patron of the Louvre, which he says is losing €10m in revenue every month due to the 80% drop in visitors. “The focus on the visitor as the main source of income is a very dangerous one,” agreed Hollein. “It’s much more important to be connected to local audiences, but you [should] also amplify the role you play locally and also internationally as a provider of service, as a provider of experiences and education.”
Jousset suggested that museums could step up their digital initiatives as a source of revenue, rivalling digital art centres such as the Atelier des Lumières in Paris. They could capitalise on their brand and expertise through licensing deals with corporations and the sale of consulting services, he said. There is also potential, he believes, to introduce different tiers of admission fees, just as airlines offer business class for a more luxurious experience. “Pricing models will get more refined, especially though online ticketing,” Hollein said.
Several talks raised the issue of diversity and inclusion in museums, which has been the focus of heightened scrutiny in 2020 following global anti-racism protests.
The field has traditionally valued curatorial and scholarly expertise, said Kaywin Feldman, the director of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, speaking in the roundtable discussion Voices of Authority: Expertise, Participation and Inclusion in the Museum of Tomorrow. “We need to recognise the intelligence and dignity of the people we serve,” she said, defending the gallery’s controversial decision to postpone a major Philip Guston exhibition by two years to “take time to listen to our community”. The delay was announced in response to concerns that Guston’s images of hooded Ku Klux Klan figures—intended as a critique of racism—could cause offence. Feldman argued that the works needed to be reinterpreted by the addition of an African-American curator to the project (the show’s four curators are all white).
“We know about Guston’s great intentions, but we can’t disown the fact that 21st-century Americans, particularly African Americans, have their own point of view and reception to the work,” she said at the symposium.
In a keynote speech, the chief executive and director of the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, Sandra Jackson-Dumont, outlined her vision for a democratic institution that will “rise above class-based distinctions between high and low [culture]” and ultimately “empower audiences” to form their own opinions of, and connections between, the exhibits. “We don’t believe we are just purveyors of knowledge,” she said. “The value lies in discourse and dialogue.”
Jackson-Dumont, the former chair of education at New York’s Met, asks: “Is there a way we can treat work on equity and engagement with the public in same way we treat rigorous approaches to art history?”
Equally, participants in the final panel discussion, The Future of Curators, spoke of the transition towards a culture of curating focused on serving communities rather than the stewardship of collections per se. The public is demanding “parity in representation and storytelling” and greater engagement from museums in “civic discourses”, said Reem Fadda, the director of the Abu Dhabi Cultural Foundation. “The curator has a main role to be that arbiter, to think within the larger public space.”
It is exciting to see the increasing collaboration between curatorial and education departments, said Jessica Morgan, the director of the Dia Art Foundation in New York. “The role [of a curator] has so significantly shifted, we need to look for different qualities, skills, backgrounds,” beyond art-historical knowledge, she suggested.
Art history can be “an important tool to reform the canon”, said Thelma Golden, the director of the Studio Museum in Harlem. Training to be a curator means “equalising the work of speaking to connoisseurs with interpreting to the public—not seeing one as the work of education”.
Reposted from Campus Security Magazine
As colleges across the country continue to face the many challenges brought on by the pandemic, some campuses have been successful in containing the virus.
While media has mostly covered colleges and universities with significant outbreaks, an analysis by National Geographic found 1,215 U.S. colleges have fewer than 100 reported cases as of Oct. 22. Additionally, 321 campuses have 100 to 1,000 reported cases, 52 have more than 1,000 and 74 have no reported cases.
One common factor between many of the campuses that have reported a similar number of cases is enrollment size. For example, Clemson University, which typically has an enrollment of more than 23,000 students, has the highest reported number of coronavirus cases at 4,082. Similarly, the University of Alabama, which has an enrollment of approximately 39,000, has 3,465 reported cases.
In contrast, Loyola Marymount University has an enrollment of around 9,300 students and only one reported. Sarah Lawrence College, which has an enrollment of around 1,400 students, has only reported three cases so far.
According to National Geographic, the majority of colleges that have been able to contain the virus have created their own public health infrastructures, sharing cohesive public health messaging with constituents and implementing rigid COVID-19 testing.
When students returned to Sarah Lawrence in the fall, they were met with signs throughout campus reminding them to wear masks and circles painted on lawns to indicate proper social distancing. Only 35% of the undergraduate student body is living on campus this year, most of whom as freshmen, compared to 84% last year. Students were required to provide negative COVID test results within two weeks of arrival and have since undergone consistent testing throughout the semester.
Due to the significantly lower number of students living on campuses, each dorm only houses one student instead of the typical double or triple occupancy, and several dorm rooms have been kept empty for students needing to quarantine. Pedestrian traffic flow has been adjusted, as have entrances and exits for all buildings. All buildings are also kept locked so only those with key cards can enter.
Sarah Lawrence President Cristle Collins Judd doesn’t attribute the school’s success to students following guidelines but to its sense of camaraderie.
“A key part for us was active communication with our students about caring for each other as a community,” she said.
Student Ava McDonald, who is a resident advisor, said she helps her residents follow protocols while ensuring they don’t feel isolated from the rest of the campus.
“The activities council does an event almost every day either in person or online,” she said. “I would end my night by going to the open mic, for example, where a bunch of students just get on a Zoom call, and everyone performs whatever they want to share.”
According to health experts, in addition to size, the inability for college campuses to regulate transmission in the communities that surround them plays a significant role in keeping the virus off campus. Often, larger campuses are public and are located in or near populous urban areas. Of the colleges that have been able to largely prevent an outbreak, “many of those places have had the advantage of being relatively isolated,” said Sarah Fortune, a professor of immunology and infectious diseases at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
Fortune specified that isolation doesn’t necessarily mean a school in a rural area but rather how freely people from the community are allowed to move on campus. Schools in “porous” communities, where there is more movement between the campus and the surrounding area, have seen more outbreaks.
“The places that are more porous, where there is definitely transmission into the campuses from the outside community, these are the places that have to attend much more behavioral risk mitigation strategies,” Fortune said.
If a college is less porous and has a solid testing program in place, she continued, then the student body could, in theory, be more relaxed.
Fortune further emphasized schools that have successfully curbed the virus “have a whole public health infrastructure. You just cannot believe the commitments that they have made to public health and the health of their communities.”
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