The doors to St. Louis Aquarium at Union Station are closed to the public for the foreseeable future. But frequent visitors to the aquarium can still return there through video livestreams, available on Facebook.
They recently got a peek inside with a virtual scuba diving lesson from general curator Aaron Sprowl as he swam around a water tank, surrounded by fish.
His mask was equipped with a headset that allowed him to talk to the audience at home. The diving livestream was one way aquarium employees are staying in touch with the facility’s audience and providing some content for would-be visitors who are sheltering at home.
While underwater, Sprowl chatted with Amber Lanwermeyer, the aquarium’s social media manager, who stood in front of the tank and relayed questions that viewers left in real time, online. Lanwermeyer said 35,000 viewers recently watched three North American river otters have breakfast. The animals scampered around their habitat, chasing pieces of meat while a biologist answered questions from viewers following along online. St. Louis Aquarium Foundation has also developed educational materials that accompany the streams.
“It was really fun to know people are really engaging with our content and excited to come visit us when we open back up,” Lanwermeyer said.
Other cultural organizations that have closed their doors also are inviting people in, online.
Fans of the Missouri Botanical Garden can’t visit in person, but they can at least get a glimpse of the spring blooms with video tours posted to YouTube. St. Louis Zoo is posting short videos of staffers taking care of animals, including a penguin weigh-in. St. Louis Art Museum is showcasing one object from its collection each day, and has highlighted on its website existing audio and video content related to its collection and past exhibitions, including video tours and recorded lectures.
Leaders of the International Photography Hall of Fame in St. Louis had been gearing up for a wide-ranging exhibition highlighting its permanent collection, which was set to open March 21. Instead, the facility is offering a video tour of the show. Unlike similar efforts at other organizations, this option will replace some revenue lost to the pandemic. Viewers of the photography exhibition must pay a fee.
City Museum rolled out a schedule of 13 live shows a week. They include arts and crafts lessons with museum art instructor Angela Perry as well as more freewheeling segments, like nearly 40 minutes' worth of action footage from operations manager CJ Couch testing out all of the museum’s slides.
For another segment, Couch livestreamed the sunset from the City Museum roof. Building manager George Diehl has also shown off his extensive collection of insects.
“The City Museum is very interactive, and I’m just trying to interact with it, since I can,” Couch said, “and just remind people that we’re still here, and try to give [viewers] a little bit of an escape from whatever situation they’ve got at home.
“Hopefully it’s bringing them some joy, wherever they’re watching from,” Couch said.
Correction: George Diehl's last name was misspelled in an earlier version of this story.
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