Presentation #226.04 in the session “Education, Outreach, and Public Engagement”.
Pre-COVID, the Very Large Array was open to visitors from sunrise to sunset, 363 days a year, with free guided tours offered six times a month. But as of March 2020, we closed the site to the general public and have no plans to reopen until Fall of 2021 at the earliest. We initially pivoted to behind the scenes STEAM education projects but as we observed multiple institutions venturing into the world of virtual tours, we decided to explore how we could join them. At the time of this writing, we have hosted six Virtual VLA Tours (including a day-long program for the Virtual 40th Anniversary of the VLA), three themed virtual tours on other NRAO facilities (i.e., ALMA, VLBA and ngVLA), and five virtual outreach events – all held via Zoom. In total we have reached over 3000 people from 50+ countries, averaging 200 people representing 30 different countries per event. In this talk, I will present these events in more detail, discuss our lessons learned to date, and share our plan to continue virtual programming even after visitors are allowed back to the site.