10 steps each museum should take when re-opening in a post covid-19 world
Updated: Jun 22
As many cities around the United States are wrapping up their second month of quarantine, we are beginning to see some areas slowly re-opening their economies to try to establish a new form of normalcy in this post covid-19 era.
In fact, a look at this handy New York Times infographic gives a state by state view on how each location is restarting it’s economy.
But what does this mean for the museum world? Over six months since the first covid-19 case was reported and still, there is no vaccine, cure, or a consistent standard protocol for the infected in sight. According to news reports, even in the best circumstances, such things may not arrive until the end of 2020, the worst scenario says that such things may not arrive at all. How will we continue to move on?
With such an outlook, and the catastrophic impact that this virus has had on the economy and in our daily lives, it is understandable that governments are looking to establish a new normal as we prepare to live in a post covid-19 world.
As the economy begins to re-open, that means museums will also soon have the opportunity to re-open its doors and begin serving its communities once more. But how will they do so to ensure the safety of it’s workers and of it’s attendees?
Below are 10 things that each museum should have in place before re-opening it’s doors:
1) Establish a name registration processes and log*
Museums now should know the names and contact information (at minimum, phone number and address verification through a state ID or Driver’s License) of every guest that walks through it’s doors. In the event that a case of covid-19 is later reported by a museum guest (or worker), the museum will then have information available in a logbook to inform others who may have been at the museum on the same day and/or at the same time as the individual who later exhibited symptoms of the virus.
*Muze has now created a registration process for Museums to consider. Find more information on this in the post here.
2) Implement visitor restrictions (by number and by time)
Museums should determine the number of visitors that it’s premises can handle while each visitor can still comfortably remain more than six feet apart from other guests. If the museum has different sections/wings where visitors can only enter/exit from the same entryway, the museum should also take measures to limit the number of visitors who can enter those sections at any given time.
If possible, tickets should be sold online and by time slot*. That is, a ticket should be sold for a 1pm entrance, with the expectation that the visitor will complete his/her visit X minutes after entering at 1pm. In this way, museums can avoid people coming to the museum, and waiting in line to enter due to the number of visitors who may already be inside the building.
*Muze is working to update it's app to include this functionality for museums who wish to sell their tickets according to time slot
3) Implement mask requirements for all visitors and workers
It goes without saying that masks should be required for all public indoor spaces. However, museums should also have boxes of masks on hand in the event that a visitor forgets to bring his/her mask, or happens to damage their own mask during the museum visit and is in need of obtaining a new one.
4) Implement glove requirements for all workers
As an additional precaution, all workers should be wearing protective gloves at all times. Your workers will constantly be opening and closing doors, handling objects, and generally touching much more of every part of the museum than your visitors (who typically wouldn’t be touching much in a museum overall!). Museums should have boxes of protective gloves on hand for workers to use throughout the day.
5) Establish temperature checks before entry
Museums will need to invest in at least one infrared thermometer to use on it’s guests (and it’s workers) before admitting anyone into the building. While it is rather accepted that a normal body temperature does not automatically rule out covid-19 infection, museums should still take the necessary precautions to ensure that they are not admitting feverish visitors into the building. Such visitors, whether they may or may not have covid-19, are also at risk themselves from potentially contracting covid-19 from an asymptomatic covid-19 visitor.
Luckily, infrared thermometers are relatively affordable and can be easily purchased online. For an example of what to purchase, click here.
6) Install hand sanitizer stations within the museum
For the comfort and safety of all guests and workers, hand sanitizers should be available in every section OR passageway of the museum, if possible. The use and availability of hand sanitizers will curb the spread of any harmful bacteria as individuals go through the museum, touching everything from railings to doors, and everything in-between.
Hand sanitizers and hand sanitizer dispensers are a bit difficult to come by these days, so it is important to check often whether or not such products are in stock. Once they are, museums should begin placing orders in anticipation that they will be used once the museum re-opens. An example of a hand sanitizing dispenser can be found here.
7) Update cleaning protocols followed by the museum staff
To ensure the safety and well-being of all who enter the museum, common areas and common objects should be frequently sanitized. Establish a schedule (i.e. hourly) to regularly spray disinfectant on areas such as: door handles, railings, table tops, counters, chairs, pens, credit card readers and more. Regular cleaning ensures that any germs which may have been brought in by an individual will not linger for too long in an area where many people may pass through.
8) Install plastic partitions where visitors may interact more closely with museum staff
Interaction points such as museum ticket counters and gift shops should have partitions which provide a physical barrier between the museum visitor and the museum employee. While both individuals will be wearing masks, this extra barrier serves as additional protection, as it is unlikely that transactions at these points can take place more than six feet apart.
Consider partitions like those that are sold here.
9) Plan for the worst – establish a protocol should covid-19 appear in your museum
If there’s one thing all of us have heard repeatedly during these past few months, it’s that we are in “unprecedented times.” While many of us will be excited to see the economy start moving again, the fact that a solution to covid-19 continues to evade humanity is of great concern. Museums need to consider that covid-19 may enter through its doors, and infect a museum worker and/or museum visitor.
Should this happen, the museum needs to have a defined protocol* to follow to minimize the impact of this exposure and to do everything it can to contain its propagation. Below are some items to consider when developing a protocol:
a) Create a Word Document that all museum workers can reference if ever a covid-19 case were to be reported by a museum worker and/or museum visitor
b) If a covid-19 case is ever reported by a museum visitor or museum worker, close the museum temporarily as museum staff begin working through the protocol
c) Schedule a “deep cleaning” of the museum facilities, to ensure that the facilities are thoroughly sanitized before the museum can re-open.
d) If the reported covid-19 case was a museum visitor, determine (with the help of the name registration log) the date and time that the museum visitor came into the facility. Based on this information, determine all of the other visitors and workers that this visitor may have come in contact with during his/her visit.
e) If the reported covid-19 case was a museum worker, determine which days/times the worker was at the museum, and with the help of the name registration log, all of the other workers and visitors that this worker may have exposed themselves to.
*Muze is working to develop a protocol template that museums may be able to leverage from as they begin the process of re-opening. Stay tuned for more details.
10) Send regular emails to your museum email list
As the economy picks up again and people start to venture back out of their homes, it is important that your guests (and your employees) feel safe when coming to your facility. Send regular updates to your email list to inform them of the things that your team has been doing to keep it's team members and it's guests safe.
Use these emails to answer in advance the safety related questions your guests may have, and once you have covered those, take the opportunity to also introduce what's happening in your museum.
We are in a new normal, and this means that business will eventually learn to move on. Let's do all that we can to keep each other safe, and to also have museums continue to serve and educate their communities!