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Lessons Learned from SARS: How Museums Emerge After Crisis

Category: COVID-19

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As museum leaders today navigate the unprecedented impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, including staff furloughs and layoffs, lost revenue, and the uncertainties of reopening, what can we learn from museums that have experienced and survived similar challenges? Listen to key former members of the team who led the Ontario Science Centre through two crises in the early 2000s: a public-service strike that led to the shutdown of the museum for eight weeks in 2002 and the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) epidemic in 2003 that resulted in widespread quarantine, derailed tourism, and staggering economic loss in Toronto.

Panelists share their experiences and strategies for:

  • Reopening the museum
  • Supporting team members
  • Reassuring visitors and potential visitors
  • Financial recovery


  • Lesley Lewis, Chief Executive Officer, Ontario Science Centre (from 1998-2014)
  • Jennifer Martin, former Vice President of Visitor Experience, Ontario Science Centre; former and Founding Chief Executive Officer, TELUS Spark
  • Julie Bowen, former Associate Director of Development and Design, Ontario Science Centre; former Vice President of Visitor Experience, TELUS Spark


Elizabeth Merritt, Vice President of Strategic Foresight and Founding Director of the Center for the Future of Museums, American Alliance of Museums

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