Being There When You Can’t Be There: Virtual Couriering and Site Visits in a Pandemic and Post-Pandemic World

Lightning Talk

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

Adrien Mooney, National Museum of the American Indian, USA, Annie Farrar, , , Jenna Shaw, ,

The Covid-19 pandemic has upended many aspects of managing museum collections, especially those that were scheduled to go on loan to or return from other institutions. Many of these loans require a courier from the lending institution to be present during installation and/or deinstallation or require site visits to borrower facilities to make assessments for both new loans and loan renewals. However, with Covid-related travel restrictions, lender staff have had to get creative in order to maintain a pre-pandemic standard of care for collections objects. Rather than cancelling all already-planned loans or requesting indefinite storage of loans for completed exhibits at the borrower’s facility, Registration staff from the Smithsonian Institution have turned to virtual couriering and site visits as an interim measure.

Because of the rapid and unexpected nature of needing to adapt new practices, there have been many challenges but there have also been many successes. This paper will share the lessons learned over the course of several virtual couriering and site visit experiences as well as suggested best practices moving forward. Although virtual couriering cannot replace in-person couriering, this paper will also explore how virtual technologies may provide more opportunities for oversight in specific instances in the post-pandemic world.