Monitoring the cultural domain in Romania during the Covid-19 crisis

Adapting the Cultural Offer

Release date: April 8, 2020

In the previously detailed context, the main priority of cultural institutions is to identify new channels to promote their offer, but also to distribute the cultural products. Cultural institutions start developing adequate ways of connecting with the remote public. Depending on the content of the artistic product offered, the adaptation strategies differ. In some cases, the solution is already functional to some degree or at least it is handy. As an example, some entertainment institutions already have a filmed archive of their shows’ premieres, some museums have functional virtual tours of their exhibitions, and some of the bookstores and publishing houses have e-books. In other cases, however, the adaptation process involves a radical change of the artistic act: theatre shows played without the public in the hall or concerts transmitted online from the artists’ living room.

A redefinition of the role that online platforms play in the activity of cultural institutions is also observed. If before this crisis platforms such as Facebook or YouTube were used to promote cultural activity, to attract viewers to the events organized within the institutions, now these tools are used as distribution channels for cultural products, to be consumed by the public. Essentially, the cultural activity moves from offline to online, and thus, the digital environment acquires an important role not only in promoting but also in carrying out the cultural act.

In this sense, a fit example are the platforms streaming cultural and artistic content. From the ones identified, Overground music have created Overground Showroom, „a library containing live concerts recorded in HD, available for online streaming” on public demand. Moreover, box offices such as Mystage have improved their existing online structure to support the artists and cultural institutions trying to adapt their activity to face up the challenges of the current crisis. Adding to the point, some ticket offices have also set up digital platforms for the artists to transmit and the public to watch shows online. The platforms identified so far can be accessed at  Eventbook and Vstage.

Theatres have published online both shows that were scheduled to be premiered in this period and shows from the previous years. Despite their laudable efforts, there are a few limits to the experience of watching a filmed theatre play translating into a weaker technical quality of the online content: in some cases the image quality is affected by the distribution channels, sound is recorded most of the times from a single source, the viewer’s perspective is limited to the filmed frame, sometimes there are interruptions in the transmission.

Independent Theatres
Similarly to the public theatres, the independent theatres have been using the digital environment to stream shows to the public at home. Some smaller theatres have managed to stream live shows as the plays were written for one actor only. Moreover, most of the independent theatres have prepared recurrent programmes addressed to children, artistic and dramatic residence programmes as well as cultural, social and humanitarian projects.

Musical Institutions
As the restrictive measures have been imposed, musical institution adapted their activity using digital platforms such as Facebook or Youtube to transmit recordings of music shows and concerts from the previous years. A part of these institutions have also initiated cultural and educational programmes for children and, in some cases, they have been directly involved in producing protection equipment for the volunteers in the hospitals.

During this period, most of the museums have been promoting content that already existed online: virtual tours, panoramic images of their permanent exhibitions or 3D-mapped mobile cultural goods, along with posts about anniversaries or pieces from the current exhibits. There is a list of all museums with a virtual tour and a list of digital events created by the Direction for Mobile, Immaterial and Digital Patrimony within the National Institute for Patrimony.

Moreover, some of the museums have created posts on Facebook about the current activity of their employees, but also about new exhibitions that are prepared during this period to be launched after the end of the emergency state.

The county and university libraries that have been monitored have chosen first of all to make their digital collections more accessible by facilitating the users’ direct access to the online archives or to platforms for online academic resources. In trying to support their connection with the public at home, libraries have created online programmes dedicated to a varied range of subjects and age groups, interactive challenges addressed to the public as well as virtual exhibitions for the art produced by the users. In some cases, the libraries have been involved directly in producing protection equipment donated to the county hospitals.

Publishing Houses
Publishing houses have started to offer free digital books or to propose substantial sales campaigns.

Cultural Centres
County-level cultural centres, popular schools for arts and crafts, centres for conserving and promoting culture – these types of institutions have used digital tools to adapt and continue their activity with the public. Thus, some of these institutions have offered virtual tours of their patrimony, some of the teachers continued their lessons online, new online workshops have been set up for the public, and the students of these institutions have been invited to take part in contests or to display their talent along their teachers.