The Gammelgarden museum in Scandia, Minn. has adjusted their summer event schedule to suit the COVID-19 era.
The museum will remain closed until September due to the pandemic, but has shifted their focus to online events and other virtual gatherings. Communications coordinator Sarah Porubcansky said the pandemic has given the museum a whole new set of challenges to overcome, but that they’re working through how to best serve their patrons while adhering to pandemic closures.
“We have not been a museum that’s been very digitized at all,” she said. “We’re a small local museum, but we’re now in this new world. We’re immigrants. We’re learning new languages and new ways to live and work.”
The museum staff, like other organizations throughout the country, has been communicating through Zoom and other online meeting platforms to discover new ways to interact with local residents. The museum’s biggest summertime events are the Midsummer Festival at the end of June and Fiddlefest in August. Both are now off the table, but Porubcansky is developing replacement content, which isn’t easy when your major focus is large, in-person gatherings.
“We’re all about food and gathering people together and touring old, small buildings,” she said. “So it’s really hard.”
Social media will be a major focus this summer. The museum recently brought on Sophia Nienaber as their summer intern. She’ll help develop the museum’s online presence over the course of the next few months.
“Everybody’s having to learn how to do Google docs and how to figure out Instagram and Facebook and how to do more social media than we’ve been doing,” Porubcansky said.
“We’re very blessed to have Sophia as an intern. (Social media) was her mission originally when she was hired, but it’s even more important now.”
Porubcansky is also working with museum staff to put together more long form online content, including a recipe blog and storytelling videos. They’ve also started putting activity packs for children in the museum’s lending library.
“It’s just little activities to do,” she said. “This week it was about food foraging.”
The Butik on the museum’s campus that sells Swedish trinkets and household items has also been shut down, but it will soon begin offering online sales for certain items.
“People will be able to drive by and do curbside pickup,” Porubcansky said. “Or things can be shipped.”
Porubcansky and the other museum staff is just beginning to implement most of these new activities, and many of them won’t be available until later this summer.
“The bigger things like reading the stories don’t really start until June,” she said. “Because we’re having to learn the language.”
As difficult as the pandemic has been for the museum, learning the new language of online content and social media is a welcome challenge for Porubcansky, who said in some ways communicating with the museum staff has actually gotten easier since they’ve began using online tools like the Zoom meeting platform.
“We’re all sitting there facing each other and we can do screen sharing and are all looking at the same documents,” she said. “So I find the collaboration easier.”
Porubcansky said if nothing else, COVID-19 might help the museum create fresh new kinds of content that will keep reaching new people long after the pandemic has faded.
“In my way of thinking it’s really rather exciting to be trying new things and learning new things,” she said. “And thinking about how we can make a museum set in 1850 become 2020.”