ifa: How did your institution manage during the crisis and how has it managed since? How has the current situation changed the museum’s work and conception of itself?
Can Akgümüş: Before the pandemic situation deteriorated, we had made final preparations for two exhibitions, Crystal Chateau and Road. We planned to open these exhibitions on March 21st, but had to postpone both openings. For a two-month period, the museum was closed in line with the government's COVID-19 regulations.
Once things returned to some normalcy, we were able to reopen on June 11th. To comply with COVID-19 precautions, we had to restrict visitor numbers, check visitors' body temperature before entry, and maintain social distancing throughout the museum. All visitors and employees had to wear masks. As well as these practical changes, we were also unable to arrange a vernissage for the exhibitions.
We didn't change the concept of our work. During the pandemic, some museums digitized their exhibitions. We didn't proceed this way, because both of our exhibitions had been conceived for visits in the physical space.
ifa: How do you address your public in this new context? What kind of public do you expect and what do you expect from your public?
Akgümüş: We use bulletins, mailings, our social media accounts, and the press. The public that we expect is a public that can take responsibility for their own and other visitors' health and comply with the conditions and precautions surrounding COVID-19.
ifa: What do you consider to be the primary social responsibilities of your museum?
Akgümüş: The primary task is to create a physical art place where COVID-19 precautions are upheld. The pandemic conditions shouldn't damage art. Our visitors should visit the museum without fear. Visitor trust can ensure that the bond between art and public does not break because of the pandemic.
ifa: Do you see your museum as a place of political discourse?
Akgümüş: We don't see our museum as a place of political discourse.
ifa: How can museums work internationally, post-nationally and responsibly today?
Akgümüş: Not only museums, but all establishments which have an obligation to develop themselves and expand their sphere of influence should be aware of current conditions and take shape according to these conditions, whether international or post-national.
ifa: Museums nowadays perform many functions. How would you define what the museum is or should be today?
Akgümüş: Nowadays, museums should definitely be visitor oriented. We think that the visiting experience can be more specialized and more focused on artists, artist's works, and curation.
Under the title 'MuseumsNow', ifa asked actors from international museums about their current experiences, challenges and visions – also against the background of the COVID-19 pandemic. The interviews and reports provide an insight into current museum practices and civil society actions of museums worldwide.