Can you think of a flower that better depicts a warm, late-summer afternoon than a sunflower? The curators of museums in Philadelphia, London, Amsterdam, Munich, and Tokyo didn’t think so this past Monday, August 14, when they decided to host a live social media event that brought together five of Vincent Van Gogh’s famous “Sunflowers.”

A curator from each  of the 5 museums museum gave a 15 minute speech on the “Sunflowers” piece in their collections through Facebook live. The event began in London at 12:50 pm and then continued to Amsterdam, Munich, Philadelphia, and concluded in Tokyo.

The speeches among the curators were not solely lecture based. They prompted dialogue between the curators across the globe. For example, in the Munich segment, the curator prompted a question for the Philadelphia curator, asking how the “Sunflowers” in Munich relate to the “Sunflowers” in Philadelphia. The answer here was that both the Munich and Philadelphia versions have blue backgrounds, and the exact same arrangement of 14 flowers. Jennifer Thompson, the Curator of European Painting and Sculpture at the Philadelphia Museum of Art noted that the Philadelphia painting has more poignant colors than the Munich painting, and the vase of the Philadelphia painting is darker than the vases found in the other four “Sunflowers.”

With all that considered, you could say, social media does it again! Bringing together a virtual experience that encompassed 5 of Van Gogh’s most famous works. Obviously this type of virtual exhibit and collaboration makes the information and presentation of the pieces more accessible to an array of audiences. Yet there were some improvements that could have been made to make this event more easily available to the public.

  1. Rather than using  individual Facebook streams for each museum, perhaps provide one consistent video or stream, rather than having to hop around to 5 different museum Facebook sites.
  2. Provide the public with specific links to watch the talks and the virtual gallery with the five paintings.
  3. Offer an outlet besides Facebook to post the videos so that those individuals without Facebook can also be a part of the conversation.
  4.  Initiate outlet or forum for audience members to ask questions and engage in the discussion.

Despite these recommendations, the idea of bringing together such iconic artwork is novel, innovative, and creative. If these five museums decide to team up again, or if other museums decide to try this type of virtual tour and lecture inth efuture, I am sure they can continually improve on this virtual experience to make it more accessible and participatory for audiences.