As a cultural institution that thrives on in-person connection, the loss of an audience is calamitous. Therefore, going entirely digital wasn’t an option, but a forced strategy which the Louvre was, to some extent, well-prepared for.
The pandemic had sudden and substantial effects on the Parisian landmark. Following the French government directive banning all the gatherings in the light of the COVID-19 outbreak, the Louvre shot-down for almost 4 months in the spring. The lockdown led “to losses of over 40 million euros,” its director Jean- Luc Martinez said. The reopening of the museum during the summer didn’t bring much relief as it kept suffering from the drastically reduced numbers of international tourists, which represent 70% of the museum’s visitors. As if that weren’t enough, the Louvre closed down again to the public from October 30, 2020 until at least December 1, 2020. A deadline which is likely to change depending on the health situation.
Like most arts and culture organizations, the Louvre resorted to its digital resources as a key element to face the consequences of the health crisis and to keep providing access to the cultural heritage.
The Louvre website went wild during the first lockdown
The museum has already started to embrace digital technology more than 15 years ago, encouraged by its ex-director Henri Loyrette. The interactive website and mobile App, along with the Data-driven decision making are two of the digital implementations and technological innovations that enabled the Louvre to win the challenge of going digital.
The access to the museum’s collections during the lockdown was offered through different formats: Podcasts, cartoons, videos and virtual tours. According to the Louvre , the visits on the website were multiplied by 10. From march 12 to May 22, the website received 10.5 million visits compared to 14.1 million visits during the whole year of 2019. Before the Coronavirus outbreak, 40,000 visitors consulted the website per day. This number increased to 330,000 and eventually reached 400,000. It is worthwhile mentioning that 77% of these visitors are non-francophone, which demonstrates the massive reliance of the museum on the visitors overseas.
Several elements contributed to this significant pickup in the website traffic:
- The page of virtual tours in English: The Louvre provided free online tours on its website permitting people all around the world to roam the rooms and the galleries of the museum, to explore its magnificent artworks, and to admire the palace architecture.
- The VR experience free application“Mona Lisa: Beyond the glass“: The app is adapted from Louvre’s first ever virtual reality experience, which was an integral component of the museum’s landmark Leonardo DaVinci exhibition. This app enables the visitors a heightened personal encounter with the world’s best-known painting that was never possible before. It was originally launched in 2019 in order to tackle the overcrowding issue and to reach a widest audience outside the walls of the museum. However, it gained even more success and popularity during the lockdown with over 10,500 downloads. Great timing Louvre!
- The new service for kids: To introduce children to art and history, the service offered animated tales linked to the museum’s masterpieces, coloring and games. It generated 76,000 visits with long session duration, over 4 minutes on average. Yes, Louvre forgets no one.
Social Media and Social Distancing
If social distancing prevents people from going to the museum, the Louvre makes sure that social media brings the museum to you. #LouvreChezVous, #CultureChezNous and #MuseumFromHome, helped the Louvre’s accounts to gain 302,500 subscribers. They are now followed by 8.83 million people. The Instagram account is particularly popular, and has grown rapidly. The number of the followers on Instagram reached more than 4 million by the end of the lockdown. This makes the Louvre the most followed museum of ancient art on this platform.
It is also on Instagram that the Louvre’s managers joined the Getty Museum Challenge which has met a huge success worldwide. Because one of the effective tools to use social media consists of calling to action, Louvre engaged its followers by asking them to recreate one of their favorite artworks from the museum’s collection. The best ones were shared on the official account.
The Louvre is familiar with using Instagram to communicate and interact with visitors. Yet, it gained more popularity with people being quarantined and forced to stay at home. The account shared over 73 posts from the 13th of March until its reopening on July 6. The posts included some of the museum’s best artworks including paintings, sculptures which come along with captions describing the works’ historical outlines and technical details. These captions are written in two languages: the text in French is immediately translated into English. They also contain a variety of emojis which add a color alongside the texts and makes the communication more instant and appealing for a younger audience.
The official YouTube channel was also propped during the lockdown by adding conferences, documentaries, past exhibitions and artists presentations.
The Louvre’s engagement in digital innovation was primarily meant to enrich the visitor’s experience and to enhance exposure of its art collections. Anyhow, its digital transformation initiatives have paved the way for the museum to be well-prepared for such cicumstances when it will have to completely operate virtually. As for now, the Louvre continues to implement active digital and audiovisual programming for audiences online.