First Corona Pop-Up Installation under the framework of the Sustainable Development Goals

What do a baby elephant made of recycled car parts, pictures of students in front of their computers and a fence full of gift-bags have in common? Although very different things, they have all become important symbols of the COVID-19 lockdown in Austria. The Vienna Technical Musuem is currently exhibiting these objects and many more to show their diverse impact on society.

This is the first Corona Pop-Up Installation in Austria under the framework of the Sustainable Development Goals and it was launched by the Vienna Technical Museum with the support of the United Nations Information Service (UNIS) Vienna. Since the beginning of 2020, the Vienna Technical Museum has been committed to a special focus on sustainability with the idea of using the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations as a framework for future exhibitions.

"The SDGs are manifested in our mission statement as an ideal framework definition for the concept of 'sustainability'. Through our initiatives the SDGs are put in context with a variety of museum-related activities and serve as basis for discussion for our visitors," said the Director of the museum, Peter Aufreiter.

With the pop-up installation: Corona Impact: Mementos in 17 stations, the museum succeeded in putting together an exhibition within a few days after it reopened following the shutdown of museums in Austria. In the spirit of "Rapid Response Collecting", a wide variety of objects that had acquired significance during the time of COVID-19 and showed its impact were collected and exhibited immediately. The museum wants to be a place where a social discourse of contemporary debates can take place, away from the rigid idea that museums only contain antiques.

"With the pop-up installation we want to encourage reflection and discussion. Visitors will have a personal connectoin to many objects and themes, while for other aspects we want to create awareness for different, perhaps less familiar, realities of life," explained Director Aufreiter.

With 17 stations, all the SDGs are covered in connection to the impact of coronavirus in Austria. The goal? To inform and sensitize. At Station 1 - No Poverty, it shows how existing inequalities in Austria have been reinforced by the impact of the virus. At the station, the often advised "stay at home" quote was portrayed. The exhibit asks where do people who do not have a home go and draws attention to the particularly precarious situations of homeless people during the crisis. Attention was also drawn to citizens' initiatives. In the installation, a copy of one of the so called "gift-fences" is exhibited. During the lockdown, these fences became a sign of solidarity and were used to attach bags of supplies to them so that people in need could pick them up anonymously. A baby elephant became a rather special symbol , represented in form of recycled car parts. The elephant was used by the government as a way of showing the minimum distance between people.

"With the symbolic representations such as the gift fence or the overflowing shopping trolley, I was able to explain the effects of the crisis to my children in a much more understandable way," said a visitor.

As a complete reflection of the social situation in Austria during the COVID-19 lockdown, the many opportunities are shown as well, especially in the field of digitalization or environmental issues, where interesting measures and changes were seen during the last couple of months. For example, how students could profit from E-Learning will need to be evaluated and improved to help achieve SDG 4 (Quality Education).

The installation offers a vision of how the SDGs can have an impact on every aspect of our lives and the huge effect the pandemic has had on them too. It shows current obstacles and opportunities regarding the SDGs and makes it clear that we must take on the innovative ideas of governments, civil society and ordinary people and all take action together in the next steps.