To keep on existing as they cannot welcome people for months, museums have been multiplying online activities. Virtual exhibitions, video games, MOOCs, podcasts, playful entertainments… Most offers are provided for free. A small number of institutions is yet trying to provide charged digital tours.
Museums’ treasuries are running empty for months for lack of visitors. Yet, managing fees keep on coming: cleaning, managing, employees’ salaries… In the United-States, museums have decided to fill registers with a bit of money thanks to charged virtual tours.
This is the case of Graceland aka Elvis Presley’s former home. For $100 per person, specialist Angie Marchese offers you to discover all the secrets of this legendary home – and for two hours. The package seems to work: according to France Info, 300 people have taken part in the first two tours.
The New York Metropolitan Museum has set up the same initiative. For $300 per group of maximum 40 adults, and $200 for students, you can discover the A New Look at Old Masters exhibition from your computer. With this offer, the Met has claimed they have received over 2,800 visitors between July and December, proving art amateurs are ready to meet with museums again and no matter how.
Other museums in New York are also providing people with charged digital tours including: the Guggenheim, the Frick Collection and the 9/11 Memorial.
In France, these charged digital tours are not in yet. A Louvre spokesperson tells France Info they are “considering” it. Not long ago, the Fondation Louis Vuitton set up a mini-live and charged tour of the Cindy Sherman exhibition.
Will charged digital tours become more popular if museums are to stay shut for several weeks? The process has pros and cons, according to those using it. The Metropolitan Museum says they are not to become standard, for the institution considers it is “important the Met keeps on offering free programs, for all”.
At Graceland, these virtual tours enable to reach a wider public. “Onsite tours will always be the core component of our offerings," said Debbie Miller, chief marketing officer for Elvis Presley Enterprises, which manages Graceland. The CMO also says the demand for such offerings will continue once things are back to normal because it gives a practical and affordable way to (virtually) attracts Elvis’s fans from all over the world to Graceland.
Once the physical world will return to normal, once the pandemic is under control, charged digital tours are not to fully disappear. They would serve a different purpose. According to Michael Burns, head of design at American office Quatrefoil Associates specialized in the layout of exhibitions, these charged tours represent the idea of living something unique, the private aspect he thinks of is something people are willing to pay for.