Local Attractions Go Online to Stay Connected

With their doors and gates temporarily closed this spring due to COVID-19 closures, local attractions are finding innovative ways to take their messages online and stay connected with the varied audiences they serve.

At the Flint RiverQuarium, curatorial staff are staggering shifts to feed animals, clean tanks, and maintain life support systems, while the marketing and education departments have teamed up to create content that is being shared on social media channels, a new Flint RiverQuarium YouTube channel, and the organization’s website. A new video premieres on Facebook each morning at 11 am. Topics include Creature Features, Exploring Nature, Behind the Scenes, and Bio Bits. Regularly scheduled programs, like the monthly Adventure Seekers family program and Tadpole Time for preschoolers, also are being offered digitally. All of these videos also can be viewed on the aquarium’s YouTube Channel. Additionally, printable coloring, craft, and other activity sheets are constantly being developed and shared on both Facebook and the Flint RiverQuarium website.

Thonateeska Heritage Center is producing Science Shorts videos, which are posted Monday-Friday at 2 pm, on their Facebook page and on the new Thronateeska YouTube channel. Also, for the month of April, several planetarium shows are FREE for families to enjoy at home! Check their Facebook page each Wednesday for a link to a new show.

“The original content that we are creating at both the Flint RiverQuarium and Thronateeska is designed to provide supplemental educational content for parents who find themselves schooling at home, to provide positive information on the important work we are doing at both organizations for those who are scrolling feeds full of fear and uncertainty, and to build a library of engaging content that will continue to be a future resource when we are able to put this current crisis behind us,” says Flint RiverQuarium and Thronateeska Marketing Manager Wendy Bellacomo.

At Chehaw Park and Zoo, content is offered twice a day via Facebook Live. Every morning at 10 am, viewers can see and virtually participate in the Cubs program, designed especially to fit the interests and attention spans of children ages 3-4, but fun for all ages. Each program includes an animal-related story, craft, and an animal experience. Craft supply lists are posted the night before on Facebook so parents can gather supplies needed for kids to craft along with the video.

Chehaw curatorial staff take over in the afternoons. Keeper Chats, spotlighting different animals at the zoo are aired on Facebook live each day at 4:30 pm. Viewers can go behind the scenes with the animals at the zoo in this fun, virtually interactive session, watching some of their favorite animals, meeting ones they’ve never seen before, and learning about the daily activities that happen behind the scenes.

“School may be over for the year, but parents are still looking for ways to engage their child’s brain, and kids are looking for ways to stay entertained during quarantine,” said Morgan Burnette, Director of Guest and Public Relations at Chehaw. “While our staff still visits daily to care for the animals, it’s a perfect time to create unique digital content that is both educational and entertaining. Staff is using this time to find creative options for guest engagement as well as unique opportunities for animal enrichment.”

The Albany Museum of Art has been staying connected to members and guests through Facebook, Instagram and their website. Each weekday by 5 p.m., Education and Public Programming Director Annie Vanoteghem posts an engaging Staying Inspired! art education activity kids can do with their parents. The AMA Art Lovers Book Club has its first online meeting on April 7. The museum also is asking people to create and share paintings, drawings, photos and sculpture of what they see in their backyard while in shelter in their Art in Residence contest, and to join in a local version of the Getty Museum Challenge, Life Imitating Art, to re-create famous art in photos using common things found around the house. Submissions will be shared on social media and the AMA website.

“As we all face the great challenges presented by COVID-19, we’re continuously working on innovative ways to bring the Albany Museum of Art to our members and guests. While folks are sheltering at home, it’s especially important to keep creativity alive with engaging ideas and activities inspired by art,” Jim Hendricks, AMA director of Marketing and Public Relations, said.

Even though our community is sheltered in place for the time being, this may actually be an ideal time to pay a “virtual visit” to our local attractions!