Accessing the artwork in covid-19: loss, recovery and reimagination

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Being ‘there’ and present within a physical space has been a long-accepted part of any art museum visitor experience. Once the sole access route, the emergence of digitisation and the Internet has since offered a new flexibility for visitors. Such online provision is often considered supplementary, ancillary, yet the year 2020 was witness to a seismic shift, when museums were compelled to unilaterally close their physical doors in response to Covid-19. This paper explores the sense of loss engendered by the abrupt removal of a direct interaction with physical artworks and examines the online initiatives that took its place. The theme of loss is explored through phenomenological experience of artworks/objects, an experience which cannot be recaptured virtually, in relation to the interchange between the physical and the virtual at both an individual artwork level and within a curated museum space. Advances in digital access, exciting new realities and future possibilities are examined, considering how this sense of loss might be accommodated in lieu, mitigated online. It is argued that a multiplicity of approaches that seek to redefine rather than replicate will engage new audiences experientially and offer a refreshed look at access between the physical and virtual art museum space.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages16
JournalInternet Histories
Early online date8 Feb 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 8 Feb 2024

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