Some victory gardeners showing their fine vegetables, 1942. Photo from Library of Congress.

Inspiring Stories as Museums Across the Country Respond to the Pandemic

04/07/2020
By Preservation Maryland

As the nation responds and works to overcome the impacts of COVID-19, museums across the country and globe are standing out as inspirational beacons for their communities.

victory gardens at old salem

While Old Salem Museums & Gardens in North Carolina is closed to the public, the leadership of the museum has made the positive decision to utilize existing demonstration gardens as “Victory gardens” to support food banks and local groups. In the tradition of Victory gardens during World War One and Two, which were planted by thousands of Americans as a part of the collective war effort, Old Salem is planting beets, carrots, potatoes, collards and other crops that are easy to store and don’t need to be refrigerated.

Garden at Old Salem, North Carolina, are growing need produce.

Garden at Old Salem, North Carolina, are growing need produce.

According to Old Salem President and CEO Frank Vagnone, “We quickly realized that Old Salem’s existing garden and plant propagation resources are already geared towards growing food plants. It was a logical next step to use them to help those in need during this difficult time. Increasing production will involve selecting high productivity crops and growing larger amounts of them compared to our regular planting of a high diversity of crops for display and educational purposes.

Learn more about Old Salem Museum and Gardens

drive through virus testing at baltimore museum of industry

Stopping COVID-19 will require social distancing as well as enhanced and robust testing — and to help expand the scale of testing, the Baltimore Museum of Industry is opening the parking lot of its shuttered museum to provide a safe and accessible space for drive-through testing.

Aerial view of the BMI's expansion waterfront campus.

Aerial view of the BMI’s expansion waterfront campus.

Museum Director Anita Kassoff explained to the Baltimore Sun, “It’s certainly not how we envisioned this spring, a time when the parking lot is typically chock full of yellow school buses, but these are not ordinary times and we are grateful to be able to help our neighbors and local health providers.

Learn more about the Baltimore Museum of Industry

New Resource for Museums: A Future 4 the Past is a joint project between the Newport Historical Society and Størmerlige Films that seeks to connect museums and historic sites during this time of uncertainly. How to get involved? Just use the hashtag #AFuture4thePast to reach out with questions, concerns, and reactions across social media platforms — and a growing group of professionals will moderate your posts, share them, and respond. Watch the video for a clip from Preservation Maryland Executive Director Nicholas Redding.

Learn more about #AFuture4thePast

digitization over layoffs at national wwi museum

Instead of laying off nearly 10 employees, the National World War One Museum in Kansas City, Missouri has transitioned those staff to support an extensive digitization and transcription effort. Mike Vietti, Director of Marketing, Communications and Guest Services at the museum explained, “Despite losses to a significant portion of our revenue stream, we view the adjustment of our teams as a creative solution that allows the organization to continue to keep staff in place during this incredibly challenging time when unemployment has skyrocketed.

Example of letters to be digitized under new effort. Cpl. Reid Fields, left, wrote letters to his sweetheart, Clara Wrasse, during World War I. Courtesy National World War One Museum

Example of letters to be digitized under new effort. Cpl. Reid Fields, left, wrote letters to his sweetheart, Clara Wrasse, during World War I. Courtesy National World War One Museum

Employees have digitized more than 100 diaries, letters and journals since being assigned to the new team and are expected to make significant progress over the course of the pandemic shutdown.

Learn more about the National World War One Museum

what’s INSPIRING you?

Have a great story to share about a museum in your community that’s using its resources to help address current challenges? Send us a message at info@presmd.org and we’ll update this post with the best stories we receive.

Together, with determination, grit and optimism, we will get through this.

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