San Francisco Asian Art Museum puts ancient artifacts on virtual display as COVID-19 prompts 2nd closure

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- The Asian Art Museum was one of the few museums able to reopen, only to close when San Francisco went to a more restrictive tier. Still, the museum wants to make sure it stays connected to the public during the novel coronavirus pandemic.

There is no place in the Bay Area where you can see Asian history and culture on the scale of that on display at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco's Civic center.

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The museum boasts some of the finest - and oldest - pieces of art in the world. 18,000 artworks spanning 6,000 years and every region of Asia.

"Our museum hosts a very rich tradition of Asian art and culture, and the people of Asian descent is about 60% of the world's population," said Jay Xu is director and CEO of the Asian Art Museum. "Asia has so much to offer."

The museum just wrapped up a massive new expansion project -- adding an outdoor courtyard and several massive new murals. However, that art just teases people of what is inside, the official opening of the expansion is on hold, as the pandemic limits museum operations.

"I think that we are creating something that will very much, will be appreciated by our community," said Xu.

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The museum closed when shelter-in-place rules closed museums across the Bay Area.

It reopened to visitors in October, allowing a limited number of guests at a time.

Knowing visitors could be cut-off again, the museum is making some of their collection available online.

"We were lucky to be able to sustain our engagement with our audiences through a virtual museum for nearly 7 months," said Xu.

Providing insights into Asian culture and conversations about some of their most prized exhibits, and behind the scenes glimpses of what it takes to preserve this collection.

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The museum couldn't provide exact numbers of what they've lost so far, but it says the losses are in the millions of dollars.

The Asian Art Museum isn't buckling under the pressure of the pandemic, they see the future in much of their ageless collection.

After all, many of the pieces on display here have already seen governments come and go, survived wars, famine, and yes, pandemics too.

"No great art was created without a struggle, with that transcends our limits, transcends our circumstances, and to find beauty out of a hardship," said Xu.

The museum is currently closed, but visitors can still help. To donate to the Asian Art Museum To donate to the Asian Art Museum click here.

To become a member of the museum click here.

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