2020: No Social Distancing in Museum

Lightning Talk

Friday, April 23, 2021: 12:30pm - 2:00pm - - Lightning Talk

Paige Dansinger, Better World Museum, USA

Where No Social Distancing Exists: Museum Resilience in time of Covid, Climate, & Colonialism

Two VR museums became platforms for social connection, social activism, and resilience building in 2020. Pandemic surging, violence in the streets, shuttered museums; one museum that never closed was Better World Museum. Created in the digital cross-platform social VR program Rec Room (IOS, PC, Oculus, Steam, PlayStation), this museum was open 24/7 in VR. Better World Museum welcomed almost 800 visitors at the height of an isolating global pandemic and polarising social crisis.

Presented to the WHO Covid + Arts Symposium as a “Recipe for Resilience,” Better World Museum created an active VR museum community leveraging Teen Leadership Development. Rec Room, known for being the Wild West for unruly pre-teens, became a platform for achievement, building confidence, and place-making for a group of 11-15-year-olds who transformed into *paid* 3D Architects, Holotar Educators, and an Interactive Artist in Residence. Social events included Earth Day, Pizza Parties, Bob Ross Night, Art Openings, and a social action Dinner Party. When one welcomes a 14-year-old to invite their friends in VR, 400+ Avatars may arrive – social distancing did not exist in our museum!

Similarly, in the new social world-building platform Facebook Horizon (beta), I created a museum out of primary shapes. Horizon Art Museum became a hub for social connection and social action! A Facebook sponsored social event, “Women in VR Meetup,” highlighted Horizon Art Museum’s +Community Voices Program. This program welcomes new diverse, LGBTQ+, indigenous, and disabled members by teaching them how to make an interactive button that amplifies their voices in the museum. I used part of my weekly US government Covid UI payments to compensate our participants with cash or a matched double donation to charitable organizations. This raised morale and a measurable Better World Museum and the Horizon Art Museum



Sara Konrath (2019) Museums as Weavers of the Invisible Strings that Connect us, Journal of the Australian Library and Information Association, 68:4, 327-342, DOI: 10.1080/24750158.2019.1670772

The Social Work of Museums. Lois H. Silverman. Routledge, 2009