Here in Chicago, we are still learning and growing while staying home. Our clients are using their apps to engage with their patrons while their doors are closed, and we're helping them create new and fun content. We're also learning that while this time is strange and scary, we have moments that teach us. Recently, our team member Sue, had an interaction with her family that made her think about digital engagement in the museum space that we thought was worth sharing with our community.
The last few weeks, like for so many of you, have turned my life upside down. So many of the things that I took up a day are no longer an option, and I’m not quite sure how to adapt to this new reality. And yet the ability to adapt in challenging circumstances is one of the things that keeps us flexible, agile, and able to move forward, because while adaptation definitely requires patience, it often presents opportunities. Last night, I had an experience that demonstrated how one particular group is showing tremendous adaptability during this crazy time and seems to be taking advantage of an opportunity to patiently adapt. Ironically, it is the group that is in many ways considered the most vulnerable in our current situation; those over 60.
My 80 something year old mother is a perfect example. Last night, she, a few of her friends, and my 92 year old aunt held a virtual happy hour together. Now this is a woman who, just a few weeks ago, didn’t know the difference between a text, a tweet, and snapchat. She does have a Facebook account, but thinks the way to like a picture of her granddaughter is to literally write “like” in a comment post. But after just 2 weeks of sheltering in place with my dad in Florida, she managed to hear about, participate in, and eventually lead a Zoom meeting.
For many of us in the museum space, this particular demographic is important because they have the time, inclination, and/or financial resources to visit, support, and donate to our spaces. However, they are not always comfortable with technology and resist being pushed into using it in museum spaces for a myriad of reasons. But that may be one of the big changes to come out of this shared experience of sheltering in place. I’m sure that the fact that we are both being forced to stay at home as much as possible, and desperate for social interaction and a sense of purpose, gave me the patience to walk her through the process, and her the patience and determination to use technology to release her from her isolation. But it worked. And she now has the confidence and comfort to use this and other forms of technology. These skills will be with her even when the shelter in place orders are over, and that opens even more opportunity for museums and cultural spaces to take advantage of this groups’ deeper and more comfortable engagement with technology, which in turn allows us to continue to connect with them and all of our patrons when our doors are open and when they are closed.