Digital Engagement in the Time of Quarantine: How the CMA is finding new ways to connect art to home

Cleveland Museum of Art
May 14 · 5 min read

By Anna Faxon and Haley Kedziora, Digital Innovation Project Managers

Video courtesy Cleveland Museum of Art.

Art connects us, and that is no less true now as we distance ourselves physically from our friends, neighbors, colleagues, and the museum itself. Since we closed in March, we’ve wanted to find new ways of connection that reflect our current situation, and we’re taking this time as an opportunity to innovate and create new spaces for online engagement.

Weekly video series. Images courtesy Cleveland Museum of Art.

You may have already seen our existing initiatives, such as the weekly video series where our curators and staff discuss how they’re feeling lately, referring to works of art that are on their mind, exploring a range of topics from melancholy to the need for a haircut.

At the heart of the CMA’s digital initiatives is the museum’s mission: “To create transformative experiences through art, for the benefit of all the people forever.” By offering ways for people to virtually connect, the museum is continuing to do just that. With the CMA’s flexible and agile API (application programming interface), integrated database systems, and comprehensive Open Access offerings, we can experiment and release innovative and unique tools — both fast-paced initiatives and long-lasting sustainable resources that can stay relevant with what’s going on in the world.

During our ninth week working as a virtual institution, we’re excited to launch the following new resources:

Homepage Takeover

Homepage Takeover. Image courtesy Cleveland Museum of Art.

The Cleveland Museum of Art launched a “homepage takeover” a dynamic gateway into the museum’s array of digital offerings during the COVID-19 closure. Rather than simply putting existing programming online, we are developing new ways to best meet people’s needs during this difficult time.

Our new homepage is a direct response to our current goals of making content available that fits the needs of our members as well as the public. In a single scroll, our most relevant resources are readily available to explore. Listen to staff discuss artworks, explore tools for teachers and students, and add some inspiration to your workday, all from home.

We will continue to add to this webpage. Over the next two weeks, you’ll see more dynamic features, including short videos showing a preview of each resource. Hover your mouse over a category and instantly understand how you might use, interact, or explore the topic at hand.

ArtLens for Slack

ArtLens for Slack. Image courtesy Cleveland Museum of Art.

Inspiration for those who #WFH: Interact daily with ArtLens for Slack, an app that amuses, entertains, and inspires teams by connecting art to the moment, bringing creativity into daily life for those working from home during quarantine. Using art from the CMA’s Open Access collection, ArtLens for Slack generates unique daily exhibitions based on topical prompts — such as “Happy Hour at the End of the World,” and “Personal Protective Equipment.” Teams can explore works of art, comment, and react to their teammates’ selections. Imagine a mix of a daily caption contest, a virtual gallery, and watercooler chat. ArtLens for Slack provides inspiration, levity, and meets remote workers where they are, uniting the digital workplace.

Visitor Art Gallery

Visitor Art Gallery. Image courtesy Cleveland Museum of Art.

Engage and Create: For families, students, and creative people of all ages, the CMA releases creative prompts on our social media and website each week, inspiring visitors to draw, create, and connect with the CMA’s collection. Use the Visitor Art Gallery to upload a photo of an activity created from CMA Sketch, Collection Connections, or a Creative Challenge, and see it shared to a gallery with other users’ creations. Revisit your own creations, browse the work of others, and share what you’ve made with friends!

Open Access Dashboards

Measuring International Reach: We launched our Open Access Dashboards, which filter live data from our Collection Online, Open Access API, Wikipedia, and soon, other platforms such as Creative Commons and the Internet Archive. Through these, we can see the exponential impact that Open Access has on the reach of our collection and discover interesting insights about how art is viewed across the world. These dashboards not only let us investigate interactions with our collection, but allow others in the museum community to see the positive impact of comprehensive Open Access policies.

Open Access Dashboards. Image courtesy Cleveland Museum of Art.

In January 2019, the CMA launched its comprehensive Open Access initiative, releasing images of over 30,000 works, and metadata for our entire collection with a Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license. Through this endeavor, the CMA continues to offer broad international access to our world-renowned collection by publishing these images and data not only through our own site and API, but on partner repositories across the web. As the museum went remote in response to the COVID-19 crisis, we saw an increase in traffic to our collection online, leading us to look for quantitative ways to measure interaction in addition to what we’ve already seen from the public — from artists using our images to data analysts exploring the collection.

Artwork by Jessica Williams @brightershadeofyellow using open access images.

Social Media Interactives

The museum is adding new Instagram filters using open access artwork as a new way to share art in our collection. Try them out for yourself and tag the Cleveland Museum of Art for the opportunity to be featured in CMA’s Instagram Story.

Instagram filters with Open Access artwork. Images courtesy Cleveland Museum of Art.

These are just some of the exciting new tools available to the public. We hope you will keep checking back as we continue to innovate, iterate, and create new ways to connect with the CMA’s collection.

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