Like with all organizational transitions online, the John and Geraldine Lilley Museum of Art at the University of Nevada, Reno was no exception. As soon as word came out in March that the Lilley would be closed to the public in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, Director Vivian Zavataro and her Graduate Assistant Jacob Carnahan immediately began to brainstorm how to stay connected with the community. Without any time to prepare, the team set to work using the digital space they already had – social media.
Zavataro quickly noticed a trending hashtag on social media, #MuseumFromHome, where museums around the world were posting images of museum artifacts, exhibitions and art so the public could still experience art, not only in a virtual space, but in a positive environment during unsettling times.
“We wanted to keep interacting with our audience, but above all provide some light into all of the chaos, and art can be a wonderful tool to create a sense of belonging and connection,” Zavataro said.
The Lilley quickly adapted the trending hashtag, using #TheLilleyFromHome, to spur an interest and engage with the local community on pieces from The Lilley’s collection. The Lilley’s Instagram posts provide a description of the art piece and then question the audience on their interpretations or descriptions of the piece.
“These descriptions add a layer of meaning to these works and give our followers a new perspective and perhaps a new way of perceiving a particular art piece,” Zavataro said.
"These figures remind me of a book I am reading in which the characters become aliens... The big creature looks fierce and battle ready, because of the way he is holding the sword, ready to fight... But the most important part is that he is ready to fight just in case opponents from another tribe come in contact with them." —written on Instagram by Louis-Marcel, 5th grader
It’s unfortunate that the museum’s current exhibit, Shane Picket: Djinong Djina Boodja | Look at the Land I have Travelled, was cut short. Future exhibits may also be delayed due to deferred shipping of exhibit pieces, and setting up may be prohibitive during social isolation orders. However, the community seems to be adapting to the online experience.
Many people have engaged with the Lilley’s Instagram posts and from all age ranges. This has spurred the museum to re-evaluate how the community engages online. Even once businesses begin to operate as normal again, the museum still anticipates having an online component.
“Coming out of this time of isolation, I think people will appreciate in-person experiences more,” Zavataro said. “Sometimes deprivation is the best route to appreciation.”
She also said that people should try to look at aspects of this experience in a positive light because typically people are too busy to interact and engage.
“Social isolation has given the world an opportunity to have time to appreciate what’s important, Zavataro said. “So, take this time to appreciate connection and follow The Lilley on Instagram for some art.”