Pandemic Urbanism

May 14, 2020

A (Pandemic) Night in the Museum – How Cities Can Watch Over their Cultural Institutions in a Time of COVID-19

By Rebecca F. Kemper
Researcher, COSI Science Museum

The author will give this presentation at the Pandemic Urbanism Symposium in a session titled “Virtual Culture,” from 11:30 AM – 12:30 PM on May 29, 2020.

Notable cultural institutions such as New York’s MoMA or Toronto’s Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) increase the prestige of the city and drive traffic downtown. But what do these institutions mean to cities under pandemic conditions? As the virus spreads, in-person activities become a threat. Aspects of cities that are normally sought after — such as tourists, festivals, mass-transit commuters, and activated streetscapes — become the specter of COVID-19 infection. Cultural institutions may seem like a luxury cities can no longer afford or need to support. However as people begin the harrowing task of trying to keep (or find work) over Zoom while balancing caregiving roles without schools or daycare centers open, all while incorporating rigorous hygiene regimes under supply shortages, there may be more need than ever of activities that remind us of who we are – human.

As cities position themselves to help their residents weather this pandemic, they need to support cultural institutions in fulfilling their mission. This presentation will discuss how cultural institutions are uniquely positioned to provide content for remote K-12 education needs, provide creative outlets for the public, and continue to be an anchor for many downtown communities.