Promoting Access in a Mexican-American Museum during the Pandemic

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During COVID-19, many museums closed their physical structures and transitioned their exhibits to online platforms for public digital access. As museums reopen, there remains a need for some visitors to attend exhibits and cultural events with minimal risk. This article examines an innovative hybrid platform for museum digital access—personal telerobots to co-explore museums alongside community members. The way it works is as follows: a community member remains at home and remotely logs into the museum robot. A friend/family member is physically at the museum, and once the robot is embodied by the remote user, they can walk around the museum together, talk with each other, interact with artifacts, and experience the exhibits together. Ultimately, the robot user and the visitor can both be immersed in the venue, separate yet together at the same time. This article examines the use of online community events and personal robots in a Mexican-American history, art, and culture museum for cultural exhibits and how these technologies may facilitate the way community members learn, interact, and explore museum artifacts. It also explores the need for best practices on the use of online communities and personal robot technology in museums. This work contributes observations, reflections, and curatorial considerations on both forms of digital media for inclusive museum practices.