Paducah’s National Quilt Museum launched Quilt Museum Digital — a new online initiative — Tuesday to give quilting and fiber art enthusiasts around the world a way to take in its exhibits from afar.
With the continuing strife of COVID-19 and pandemic safety protocols, museum CEO Frank Bennett feels that this sort of strategy is necessary for his institution and the museum industry as a whole.
“As the pandemic has occurred, tourism really has been impacted,” Bennett told the Sun. “We’re getting about 40% of the visitors that we would normally get and we are not alone.
“Museums have really had to pivot their model and a lot of them have gone to different variations of digital formats, offering things online that they haven’t done before to keep people engaged and, of course, we all need more revenue, as well.”
While this is a direct response to COVID-19 by the museum, Bennett believes Quilt Museum Digital could permanently aid the museum’s outreach efforts to promote quilting and fabric art to a global audience.
“Because our audience is global, these folks can’t come to Paducah 10 times a year,” he said. “So what we’ve always had is a lot of people outside this area and even around the globe who wanted to see more of the exhibits that we put up but just cannot physically come here, so they’re missing the art.
“This gives us the ability to bring the work of these amazing artists to a wider audience by providing them in a digital format.”
Accessible via www.quiltmuseumdigital.com, the service is subscription-based and costs $8 a month — a special launch price — to access. These memberships come with video walkthroughs of each new exhibit in addition to a variety of supplemental and exclusive materials: interviews with artists and curators, behind the scenes videos from the museum, digital-only exhibits and programming, Quilt Museum TV episodes and more. The service supports viewers via computers, tablets and smart phones. Subscribers also will have access to the museum’s “vault” of former of exhibits.
The first exhibit to go onto the service is “OURstory: Human Rights Stories in Fabric,” curated by Susanne Jones. All 47 of the pieces included in the collection are viewable now through Quilt Museum Digital, in addition to an interview with Jones.
“There’s two wins in here for us,” Bennett added. “The biggest of which is that we’re able to get our work in front of thousands of quilt enthusiasts who would not be able to come to Paducah 10 times a year and the second of which is that these phenomenal artists get to exhibit their work in front of a much larger audience.”