While most of the protests and processions were peaceful, civil unrest led to looting and property damage in cities like New York.
New York City has 130 museums in five boroughs, and according to city data, there are some well-known museums that house works by world-renowned artists.
In the halls of Vincent van Gogh’s Starry Night The Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), Claude Monet sits a long way from the water lily pond. Both the Solomon and Guggenheim Museums and the Art Metropolitan Museum are home to Pablo Picasso’s paintings and other invaluable collections.
And for many, museums are a cultural haven.
‘It’s not too late, but you should plan’
The Metropolitan Museum of Art alone receives more than a million visitors a year.
“Many people in the city see museums as a safe place to have meaningful conversations about difficult issues. The industry is sometimes a bridge to do that,” Marion Lamona told CNN.
Lamonaca is the Associate Gallery Director and Chief Curator of the Bird Graduate Center in New York and President of the Board of Trustees of the Art Museum Curators Association.
Cultural safety expert Steven Lane told CNN that cultural organizations need to have a plan and coordinate with local agencies, including federal law enforcement, to plan for potential emergencies.
Lane, the founding director of the International Foundation for Cultural Property Protection, is one of the security experts working with cultural organizations across the country, whose leaders are trying to protect their invaluable but currently zero organization.
“We’re saying it’s not too late, but you should plan. The police are overwhelmed. They can’t be everywhere. They can’t handle everything,” he said.
Lane said most major organizations have secure storage space in a completely different location to protect the most valuable jobs. Now the IFCPP is warning museums to remove the exhibition from the main floor because it could be the most risky in case of a break-in.
At least one museum in the city, The Whitney Museum of American Art, has climbed from their floor to their roof windows.
Lane says he tells his colleagues to be careful if they can, but the cost is too high and companies that rely on daily ticket revenue may not be able to afford the coronavirus-related losses.
Controversy over controversial cultural installation
Controversial cultural installations in museums and public spaces have been at the center of controversy in recent years.
Margaret Holben, president and fellow at the American Institute for Conservation (AIC), told Ellis: “It’s always been a problem of what to do with monuments that are offensive to certain groups. It’s nothing different today than it was in Charlottesville in 2001, “Margaret Holben, president and colleague of the American Institute for Conservation (AIC), told Ellis.
Archives are cultural heritage sites that are preserved as well as repaired if damaged.
Some conservatives have recently been harassed for repairing damaged installations, Holben Ellis told CNN.
“We’ve received reports that archivists have been threatened – or threatened, while performing their professional duties to protect and preserve cultural heritage. Our members as well as monuments need to be protected from damage and harassment. There must also be a sensitive role to be played by conservators who must remain neutral in the discharge of their duties.
Conservators work under the policy to preserve all cultural heritage, George Wheeler, professor of historic preservation at the University of Pennsylvania, told CNN.
As night protests continue, archives and managers may consider stopping repairs to installations in public places, Wheeler advises.
“These issues can be taken care of, but how and when we deal with these issues.”
In some cities, politicians have warned Wheeler against early removal of public installations and monuments.
“The decision may affect the protection of the Conservatives, affect the perception of society, and certain sets of decisions may not be easily reversed,” Wheeler said.
Wheeler said, “Consciously destroying the monument because of its symbolism is also an alternative con
How we use our voice
Both The Met and The Whitney declined to comment on their protection protocols, but they and several museums in New York posted on their social media pages condemning the death of George Floyd in solidarity with the protesters.
The Guggenheim Museum is promoting the work of African American artists who have identified racial discrimination in their work.
The city’s Public Design Commission has similarly promoted black artists on Twitter.
They called Moama an incomplete list of resources and organizations to fight racism and support justice and equality.
“I think museums want to step in and communicate at this point,” Lamonaka told CNN.
Now the question for curators is, “How do we use our voice, our position in the community, to bring people together and create meaningful conversations on tough issues,” Lamonaka said.