CINCINNATI — When the Cincinnati Museum Center shut its doors on March 14, 2020, it was forced to evolve out of the ice age and into a digital one.
“We've continued to put out about one virtual field trip a month, and that's become a suite of digital programs,” said Whitney Owens, Chief Learning Officer at the museum.
That suite now includes nearly 500 in-person and virtual outreach lessons; two-thirds are digital.
“A series of virtual field trips that combine engaging footage of our galleries, with special expert interviews, both of our curators, and some of our community partners and experts,” Owens said
It's helped the museum, once focused on how to get people to come and visit, to make it work by bringing the museum to others.
“We had one week where one of our virtual field trips was being booked by a school in Los Angeles and a senior center in Brooklyn, just a few days apart,” Owens said.
Owens expects some of the educational efforts to really pay off five or 10 years down the road. They've been able to reach more than 20,000 people this way.
“I know that number would not be as high if we'd only been able to engage with them in person,” she said.
Where Owens really sees that is in the STEM girls program, for budding scientists seven to 14 years old.
It includes interviews with a diverse group of women in scientific disciplines, serving a wide variety of interests. Owens said that program will continue.
“We see it as probably a mix of in-person engagement, which we know is still really important. But being able to open it to a broader public, then we can serve with just in-person interactions by continuing that digital engagement as well,” she said.
Under its dome, the museum found silver linings: better partnerships with the library, YMCA, rec centers and others. They continue to meet monthly to identify gaps in access to high-quality learning.
“It's helped get us to the digital strategy I think we probably always needed. It’s helped us get there a little bit faster. And that's something that I know will remain even after the pandemic,” Owens said.
The museum recently reopened its Children’s Museums and the revamped Ice Age exhibit. Even if you’re fully vaccinated, you’ll need to wear a mask inside if you visit.