In 1348, the Black Death swept Europe, causing millions of deaths across the continent.
Giovanni Boccaccio was a firsthand witness, and the experience inspired him to write “The Decameron.” In this literary masterpiece, 10 friends decamp to the country to avoid getting sick. They quickly establish a routine to ward off boredom, telling each other 10 stories in 10 days.
Eike Schmidt, the director of the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy, decided there was a lesson for our times in Boccaccio's work. In a statement, Shmidt said, “Even though museums have had to close their doors, art doesn’t stop.”
The Uffizi has started a social media campaign called #UffiziDecameron, where everyday tour guides tell stories about their favorite works of art in the collection. (It's all in Italian, but you can still appreciate the art!)
Novella di nome e di fatto! Oggi la novella di #UffiziDecameron ce la racconta Novella Lapini, assistente museale delle Gallerie degli Uffizi, archeologa e cultrice della materia. Ci racconta i sogni di una fanciulla che dorme da quasi 2000 anni: il mito di Arianna dormiente. #lamiasalaPosted by Gallerie degli Uffizi on Monday, March 16, 2020
“The Uffizi will be with you, in your homes, to overcome all together the current difficult moment,” Shmidt added. “Let us avoid any contagion, except that of beauty.”
Other museums around the world are taking up their own online initiatives. The Museum of the City of New York started #MuseumMomentofZen to bring a little calm to your day. They posted this watercolor to kick things off:
We know there’s a lot of stressful news in your timeline, so here’s a #MuseumMomentofZen.— Museum of the City of NY (@MuseumofCityNY) March 11, 2020
🎨: Herbert Bolivar Tschudy
The Turtle Tank, @nyaquarium, 1920
Museum of the City of New York, 47.141.3 pic.twitter.com/oQuLZdutN1
“When it became clear that the museum would have to close, I said how can we find a way to inspire and bring a ray of sunshine into what’s pretty much a dark moment?” said Sheryl Victor Levy, the museum’s director of communications.
Other museums followed suit: The Broad in Los Angeles posted a livestream of Yayoi Kusama’s infinity mirrored room:
We’re livestreaming #YayoiKusama’s Infinity Mirrored Room on IG at 11 a.m. on Monday, March 16. Experience a #MuseumMomentofZen and see what it’s like to be in this installation for longer than 45 seconds. Enjoy our art even when you're not here 😌 #TheBroadFromHome pic.twitter.com/zFl1KfF2Cd— The Broad (@TheBroad) March 14, 2020
The Lebadang Memory Space, an art space in central Vietnam, posted this sepia-toned photo from its rooftop:
But if it's not peace you’re after, and instead want to laugh, check out #MuseumFromHome, where art enthusiasts are explaining their favorite museum artifact in 60 seconds or fewer:
#MuseumFromHome— Sacha Coward (@sacha_coward) March 16, 2020
Whilst we’re self isolating, some of us museum weirdos have decided to make quick videos about our favourite museum artefacts. So if you can’t go to a museum, let’s bring the museum to you!
First up: The Titanic Pig from @RMGreenwich in 60 seconds
🐷🚢 🎶🌛 pic.twitter.com/jmwormRxaE
Day 2 of #MuseumFromHome! The knife that ended a West-End career: Richard Prince’s ‘gratitude’ for a kindly act from a Victorian heart throb! (More info here: https://t.co/zaAtvsbHPu) @MuseumofLondon @sacha_coward pic.twitter.com/cPnQFvN9wa— Sheldon K. Goodman (@SheldonKGoodman) March 18, 2020
Online resources will never replace seeing art in person. Still, says Sheryl Victor Levy, arts and culture really has the capacity to help us right now: “It’s there to inspire, it’s there to be provocative, it’s there to help people contemplate … now is the time to engage!”
Want more arts and culture resources from around the world?