You Can’t Visit the Museum. But Your Robot Can. – The New York Times

“Catalogs and online galleries are great,” Ms. Gilmore said, “but they don’t allow you a sense of the spacing of an exhibition, how it’s paced.”

Starting this week, Hastings Contemporary is trying various types of virtual visits using the robot, all for free, including tours with an in-person guide, a remote curator and prerecorded videos. The hope is that people from overseas will check it out, extending the gallery’s reach far beyond Britain.

“Technology like this has the ability to connect us, even in normal times,” Professor Caleb-Solly said in a Skype interview. “Think of how you could use this at museums like the Louvre, if you couldn’t afford to travel.”

Ms. Gilmore said: “The main problem we have is how we’re going to schedule all the requests we’ve had.”

Behind the novelty of using gee-whiz technology like this to view art lies the threat coronavirus poses to many galleries and museums, especially smaller ones. Hastings Contemporary, a tiny nonprofit space in a deprived town, receives around 130,000 pounds (about $160,000) annually in state subsidy, and gets the other 80 percent of its income from other sources: Ticket sales, membership fees, venue hire, fund-raising.

Ms. Gilmore has already put nine of her 13 staff on furlough, and many volunteer docents are self-isolating (a number are retirees, especially vulnerable to the virus). Although Arts Council England, the country’s main funding body, has promised emergency cash for many organizations, the hole deepens every day. Some British arts institutions have announced that they will remain shuttered until the end of June at least.

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