UNESCO Web Conference highlights COVID-19 crisis and museums in Egypt

An Online Platform Meeting on the COVID-19 Crisis and Museums in Egypt was held in Cairo on 5 May 2020 to develop action-oriented recommendations for strategies and measures to be taken during and post the COVID-19 crisis.

This online meeting was organized by the UNESCO Regional Bureau for Sciences in the Arab States in cooperation with the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities (MoTA). The meeting brought together thirteen senior officials representing the museum sector of MoTA, together with representatives of the Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM) and the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization (NMEC), the Egyptian Museum in Cairo (EMC), and the Museum of Islamic Arts (MIA).

Dr Ghaith Fariz, Director of the UNESCO Regional Bureau for Sciences, provided a summary of UNESCO’s response in culture to COVID-19, including #ShareOurHeritage online campaign, video interviews with the World Heritage site managers, and the Meeting of over 130 Ministers of Culture on 22 April last. In thanking the Egyptian authorities for their strong support to and participation in these global initiatives by UNESCO, he underlined the important role that the museum sector plays in enhancing community engagement and overcoming social isolation with its rich cultural and educative contents and societal functions.

The participants’ interventions highlighted several initiatives undertaken in response to COVID-19. These encompass not only risk preventive measures for the safety and security of the museums, their staff, and visitors, but also the development of a variety of digital tools including virtual tours, online exhibitions, social media posting, live streaming, and online video.

The participants also exchanged information on the guidelines and measures under discussion for the re-opening phase. This includes the installation of floor signs for social distancing, the introduction of an e-ticket for museum visits through respective websites, and online museum gift shops.

The meeting recognized that the response measures to COVID-19 crisis have accelerated digitalization efforts that were ongoing prior to the crisis. It was agreed that the digital transformation process must be sustained, with enhanced support to ICT infrastructure and training opportunities. This reflects as well the emphasis given to ICTs in the UNESCO Recommendation concerning the Protection and Promotion of Museums and Collections, their Diversity and their Role in Society.

Ambassador Maged Mosleh, Supervisor of the Central Administration for Public and International Relations of MoTA, in concluding the meeting, appreciated the concrete suggestions and noted that all the contributions and conclusions derived from the exchange will feed into the action-oriented recommendations.