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As a new strain of coronavirus (COVID-19) swept through the world in 2020, preparedness plans, masking policies and more public policy changed just as quickly. WVXU has covered the pandemic's impact on the Tri-State from the very beginning, when on March 3, 2020, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine barred spectators from attending the Arnold Sports Festival in Columbus over concerns about the virus, even though Ohio had yet to confirm a single case of COVID-19.

Museums, Libraries, Zoo Offer Online Programs During Coronavirus Closures

Courtesy of the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden
Fiona is the first animal featured on the zoo's "Home Safaris" program offered while the zoo is closed.

Many organizations from museums to science centers, zoos and more are offering virtual tours, visits and lessons online during closures caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

This is not an exhaustive list and many organizations have more information on their websites.

Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden

The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden Monday launched "Home Safaris," a Facebook Live series where keepers will offer daily lessons about zoo animals. The announcement was met with enthusiasm online with the post reaching more than 18 million people and garnering the zoo 400,000 new followers.

"We're bringing the zoo to people who are stuck at home," said Cincinnati Zoo Director Thane Maynard. "This zoo is so important to the community and not being able to visit will create a void that we're trying to fill. The goal with the daily live sessions is to provide fun and educational content to people who are stuck at home."

The first featured animal, of course, is Fiona the hippo.

"We're going to go live at 3 p.m. every day with a different animal and just get people close enough to care so they can still see our animals and learn about them," said Angela Hatke, digital engagement and publicity manager.

Lessons will last about 15 minutes and include activities for people to do afterward.

Even though the zoo is closed, Hatke said the animals are being well cared for and the zoo is well stocked with food and supplies.

Cincinnati Art Museum

The Cincinnati Art Museum (CAM) is not open but you can still view its collections online. The museum's thousands of pieces in its collection can be viewed on its website.

"You can search by artist or artwork or type of art and then you can view those artworks," said Jill Dunne, director of marketing and communication. Once you've selected an image, in some cases there will be links to more resources about the artwork or artist.

Many pieces, including CAM's famous piece by Vincent van Gogh, "Undergrowth with Two Figures," can also be explored in detail through Google Arts and Culture, which has high resolution images viewers can zoom in on while reading about the artwork and artist.

Dunne points to the museum's social media accounts as another good way to learn behind the scenes information about the art museum and its collections or the artists.

While the museum is closed, extra cleaning is being done to prepare for when it can reopen.

Cincinnati Museum Center

For caregivers and others looking to supplement school lesson packets or online studies, the Cincinnati Museum Center is making all of its Wonder Zone videos available online.

"These are about 26 videos that range from really fun science experiments that you can do at home with your kids with readily available materials to virtual tours of some of our galleries in the Children's Museum to encounters with some of our animals in our live animal collection," said Whitney Owens, chief learning officer.

The museum also has a lot of blog posts from curators on myriad topics, she says, adding these are great for middle to high school students as well as adults.

"We also know that we have lots of friends who might be in senior centers and might not be able to have access to all the visitors they're used to so we're hoping that some of these resources will be available and helpful to them as well," Owens said.

As the week progresses, the museum center plans to roll out more resources such as a daily online story time and Children's Museum dance parties on Facebook Live.


While most libraries in the region are closed, digital materials are still available through e-branches. These offer access to e-books, audiobooks, magazines, TV shows, movies and music.

Virtual story times are available on YouTube from the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, as well as help with lessons and study guides. Adults may be interested in doing online genealogy research, too.

Similar offerings are available at other libraries around the region. It's best to check your library's website for ideas.

Baker Hunt

Baker Hunt Art & Cultural Center is offering a daily online art project. These occur at 12:30 daily on the center's Facebook page via a Facebook Live event.

Senior Editor and reporter at WVXU with more than 20 years experience in public radio; formerly news and public affairs producer with WMUB. Would really like to meet your dog.