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Supporting Staff Well-being in a Partisan Time

Category: On-Demand Programs: Human Resources
Screenshot of the video Supporting Staff Well Being in a Partisan Time

Growing partisan tensions and increasing public tendencies to engage in hostility and rudeness are adding to the stress faced by museums’ frontline staff. How can museums protect staff, equip them to deal with bad behavior, and provide the support they need to maintain their mental health and well-being?

Moderator: Barbara Naomi Cohen-Stratyner, Independent Cultural Worker, Consultant


  • Jonathan Dix, Manager of Visitor Experience, Newark Museum of Art
  • Colleen Higginbotham, Deputy Director for Visitor Experience, Chrysler Museum of Art


Barbara Naomi Cohen-Stratyner: Our speakers today are Colleen Higginbotham, Deputy Director for Visitor Experience at the Chrysler Museum of Art; and Jonathan Dix, Manager of Visitor Experience at the Newark Museum of Art in New Jersey. I’m Barbara Stratyner.

For over 25 years ‑‑ I’m going to show you a picture.

For over 25 years, I was a Curator of Exhibitions for the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, collaborating closely with the security staff and volunteers who are our visitor‑facing services.

But I’m actually part of this conversation today in conjunction with my ongoing resource projects for the LGBTQ+ alliance. We study the importance of visitor‑facing personnel, locating interactions and the possibilities of those interactions being non‑welcoming or non-inclusive, and how we can provide our visitor‑facing personnel with the support, framing, and structures that they need.

So, we’re starting by showing you what the visitors see when they come by. This is the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. There is a Colder Staybill (phonetic) at the front, which is the box office.   As you go in, there’s two guard sections, one to check bags on the way in and one to check bags on the way out; and a volunteer welcome desk.

So let’s ‑‑ this is our caption. The building is a famous example of brutalist architecture. It’s poured concrete cantilever designed by (? indecipherable).

Jonathan Dix: This is me, Jonathan Dix, the Visitor Experience Manager at ‑‑

(Overlapping speakers.)

Jonathan Dix: Yes, the Newark Museum of Art, located 49 Washington Street, Downtown Arts District in Newark. I’m going to start by just saying the statement we’ve cultivated. It’s our mission statement, just so everyone knows it. We always go over it in all of our big fancy meetings at the Newark Museum, so we’re all affiliated with it, and it took a lot of people to come together to bring a small amount of words that is a really big impact to the culture and community at the Newark museum. We welcome everyone with inclusive experiences that spark curiosity and foster community.

Moving onwards, I’ll do a land acknowledgment, since the Museum always does a land acknowledgement at least internally and front‑facing to any guests that come through that attend any of our big receptions. So we acknowledge that traditional homelands of the Lenape, also knows as the Delaware, upon which the Newark Museum of Art resides.

This is the front picture and main structure of our building. It’s rather large with a small entrance. We have an accessibility ramp on the side.   This is the main entrance in which most of the folks do come through.

Moving onwards, we have our south wing facing entrance. This facade is really designed for anyone who needs accessibility kind of granted access, specifically with mobility. It’s closest adjacent to our parking lot, and a lot of on the staff use this entrance, as well.

I also included some pictures of other features of the museum. We have an historic house attached on the museum. Funny enough, we’re multiple buildings. So sometimes it’s rather difficult to navigate. The front‑facing of the historic home on the right‑hand side is not as structurally tall as the front entrance, but it’s completely adjacent and it’s a red brick structure so it’s easy to identify.

The left‑hand side, we have a private garden associated with the Newark Museum of Art. I just included this picture of its rather large, greenish landscape.

In the far back left‑hand corner, rather hard to see, is an old historic schoolhouse on site for the educators.

And in the far right, not in use, is a carriage house we use mostly for storage, but it’s still there because we have had it for many, many years.

Moving onwards to the staff, to get a picture of the Newark Museum, since we’re a larger enterprise of museum, we have five bigger groups of folks associated with the museum, all kind of doing it a little bit different but working in tandem to one another. We have people in Culture, which most folks might be aware of as HR or human resources. We have Philanthropy and Public Relations, which I’m associated with, which is Visitor Experience as well as some other front‑facing staff, and some back‑end staff that deal with the public, like Marketing. We have Collections and Curatorial, a little bit self‑explanatory, but it deals with all things content as well as the collection in general. Financing and Infrastructure brings the money inwards, but also is a little bit of the structurally sound elements such as facilities as well as security.   And then we have our Learning Engagement, which is for all intents and purposes a little bit about education and they interact with school groups and tours of that nature.

I included a nice little picture of everyone. Too many faces to really see, but you can see a large portion of our general staff. It’s a picture of us in an auditorium, a large group of all different collections of ethnicity, race, gender. So, there’s a lot of equity that’s associated with us in there.

And then I think that might be the last for me.

Oh, I included some of the events that we kind of engage with as front‑facing staff. So as Visitor Experience Manager, I oversee the gallery hosts, as well as the volunteers and docents. So we work in tandem with some other front‑facing groups like Security, or Learning and Engagement, to kind of mingle with a bunch of different groups. I have three pictures here. The top right is of a public program. It’s a performance. It’s someone in our Grand Court with a large crowd around them.

Left‑hand side is one of our more formal events, maybe geared towards our gala. It’s a bunch of folks well‑dressed in our Welcome Center. Large flowers and bouquets.

In the bottom right‑hand corner is a couple folks dancing in our garden for another public program.

Colleen Higginbotham: Perfect. This is me. Again, I’m Colleen Higginbotham from the Chrysler Museum of Art in Norfolk, Virginia. Here the exterior of our main museum building. We also have a glass studio on site, as well as an historic home that’s off‑site about a mile away.   We’re a mid‑sized art museum with a world‑class collection but seeing about 200,000 visitors a year.

One of the things I think makes us a little bit unique is our gallery host program. The way that we approach that, we do not have traditional security in our galleries. Security is behind the scenes. Rather than an imposing presence and somewhat intimidating to some visitors, we have a warmer welcome. Here on the left is a picture of a gentleman opening the door.  We physically open the door for all our visitors. It’s a great act of hospitality and I can wax poetically about opening doors and breaking barriers, but it’s also just a heavy door, so we open it there.

On the right, you’ll see a picture of a woman sort of talking about works of art to another couple in a gallery.

So, they’re making regular rounds and enforcing rules and watching for odd behavior, but they’re also answering questions and engaging in conversations about art.

My role here at the museum, so I am the Deputy Director for visitor experience. So, I oversee five departments which is lot of our forward‑facing departments. Our gallery hosts, as well as our glass studio, are Security. Because again, while they’re behind the scenes, it is very much a team effort on the frontline, as well as our museum shop, and our special events.

I’ve also added here sort of our land acknowledgment, which we are excited we are on the land of Tsenacommacah, the Chesapeake Bay region that we are here in Virginia.

Barbara, back to you.

Barbara Naomi Cohen-Stratyner:Yes. Thank you.

So, one thing that all of the museums have in common was the very fast shutdown for the COVID in 2020. The shutdown lasted for a different length of time and the experience was very different for everyone. I spent most of the lockdown watching other museums’ experiences and listening to discussions among museum staff on Zoom about the issues that it expected to have with the lockdown, and the reopening, and the issues that they actually have. My museum was connected with the Public Library and we opened like the library, not a museum. What kind of experience did you have in Virginia, Colleen?

Colleen Higginbotham: We, I think, of everyone had a slightly easier time.  I’ll click ‑‑ oh, shoot. I’ll forward just a moment to a photo here of us. We were only closed for three months. We were also able to keep everyone employed and paid during that time, including our frontline staff, part‑time and full‑time. When we reopened, I think the struggle for the frontline and where they really needed our support was with mask enforcement. Even once we reopened, we kept a mask enforcement for a long time, even after it was no longer mandated in our area. We enforced it, because we thought it was the safest thing to do. For our frontline staff during this time, something that came was an apprehension of approaching someone about a rule, of not knowing who was going to be aggressive and lash out at them, and who would just say, “Oh, okay,” and put it on. I think that lingers still a little bit in rule enforcement now. Obviously, we’re no longer enforcing a mask policy, but any other policies and that apprehension, I think some of those nerves are still with our visitors.

Jonathan, are you here?

Barbara Naomi Cohen-Stratyner: Jon, can you join? Oh, dear.

Colleen Higginbotham: I’m not sure if we lost his connection. Do you want to press ahead and we’ll allow him to ‑‑

Barbara Naomi Cohen-Stratyner: Yes. Can you go back to the slide just before? No, I’m sorry.

That’s the one. This was part of a blog that was posted from the Security professional network at the time making suggestions about reopenings, what the priorities should be, and some places where there may be encounters or threats between the visitor‑facing staff and volunteers, and the visitors.

I would say visitor‑facing rather than frontline because in New York the frontline staff was considered people who were facing the virus ‑‑ or the visitors.

So, you may recognize in your museum’s experience what the law is recommending.

Jon, you’re back. Good. Can you tell us about your experience?

Jonathan Dix: Yes, so sorry, I could see everyone and hear everyone, but no one could hear me, so it was quite the experience.

So, to talk a little bit, I’m going to move to my slide, to talk a little bit about kind of COVID at the Newark Museum of Art, I will say we probably had a hard time, truthfully. I’m actually very shocked to hear how it was in Virginia. I think Newark was a little bit of a hotspot truly. We ended up closing top of 2020 in February, and the idea was to open actually within just one month, but through a lot of trials and tribulations actually we didn’t reopen until 2021 in May. So, it was almost 12 times longer than we expected to reopen. A lot of the trouble that kind of happened was, unfortunately, we tried to maintain all of the front‑facing staff as long as possible. Since the museum was actually closed to the public, we just kind of had staff, you know, picking up pay, working from home, when possible, for roughly a few months before we realized we weren’t going to re-institutionalize public‑facing until later of next year. So unfortunately, what had happened was everyone was let go with the prospect to return, but there was a lot of hesitation upon that return.

And a lot of the concern was public safety, masking mandates, vaccinations, how do we navigate situations with that, with both staff and guests. So, through a multitude of waves of who was willing to come back, as we kind of progressed forward to develop kind of this plan for our safety as well as the safety for the guests, we didn’t have enough initially. So, when we planned to reopen June of 2020, it actually didn’t happen until the following year later, because we had to slowly amass the staff willing to return and we wanted to prioritize the staff who had already been with us at the museum.

Upon return, there was a lot of confusion about what should be or could be mandated and what were the rules. Newark didn’t have any heavy rules, but some of our sister museums across the river in New York had some rules we wanted to play by, which was mandating masks for both staff and guests, as well as vaccinations. The Mayor of Newark was very compliant with all institutions doing what they saw fit for the safety of the staff as well as the guests. I don’t want to say there was animosity, but getting everybody on the same page was a struggle. We provided KN95 masks for all staff as well as guests when they came through, for the safety of the guests as well as the front‑facing staff. We bought a bunch of thermal devices to see if anyone might have had maybe high fevers or had any symptoms. We had COVID rapid testing on‑site available for guests if they felt under the weather, but as well for staff. We did a lot of precautions to make sure everybody felt safe, but it was a rather precarious time for a guest or staff here and there that maybe didn’t want to show their vaccination card or prove they were vaccinated, and there were some hefty rules for the safety of all, but it was a troubling time to navigate, truthfully.

Barbara Naomi Cohen-Stratyner: Yeah, it was very difficult. New Yorkers tend to like public space, and people were waiting in lines to into museums, but the museums that had the easiest time with the openings were the ones with huge entrance areas. So, as you can imagine, The Met, the American Museum of Natural History, and MoMA, which have extraordinary amounts of space in their great hall, were able to manage the social distancing.

But we did reopen. The staff was all kept on. We all meta data, which was good, because we understood each other’s jobs by the time things happened.

But next, I think we can talk about any of the issues that may have come up, that were not anticipated. Certainly, with COVID, all of us spent a great deal of time thinking about reopening. But there were some issues that nobody expected to have in our museums, and that put pressure on our visitor‑facing personnel.

Colleen, did you open to new pressures, or find the pressures came in the two years in between?

Colleen Higginbotham: It’s really interesting to see how different. This wasn’t in every area for us. The tough part, again, for the frontline staff was feeling perhaps separated while others were working from home, and they were on‑site. I think that’s difficult, but I think that was probably hardest on our Security Team who never left. They were here the entire time, and they were the first to test sort of new policies.

But I think we did learn from it, and it shaped a bit of who we are as we look forward.

Jonathan Dix: Yeah, to speak to what you had said, too, there was a lot of isolation. I would say when we first came back as part of the first wave of the front‑facing folks, we had all been remote. All the office staff were remote. So, the only folks on‑site were Facilities, Security, and Visitor Experience. So that was before we re‑initialized any of our education programs, we had large groups back in the building, because everyone was standing so far apart from one another that it was really isolating and it was difficult to interact with colleagues who might have been in offices that you worked in tandem to but you never saw for maybe another six or eight months now, because they had a remote schedule and they were trying to avoid the public, ironic enough, even though we’re all dealing with the public.

So, isolation was a big one. How do we connect staff to one another that might not see each other because they might be an office staff, or they might be a frontline security worker?

I would say some of the tools that we used to navigate situations like that was building a stronger community and kind of a culture with one another where we did holiday parties and we met together in larger all‑staff meetings just to make sure we knew who worked with one another and got to delightfully see one another in person after being away at home for over a year.

Colleen Higginbotham: I think that that was hard. We discovered a lot of the ways that we usually look to boost morale and look to make people feel included, so many of them revolved around getting together in person with food and drink. That’s so much of how we bond as humans.

And our all‑staff meeting, we always have a weekly stand‑up all‑staff meeting. We had to move to our large atrium and get a microphone involved so that everyone could spread out, which feels much different than talking sort of in the gallery that we are back in now.

Barbara Naomi Cohen-Stratyner: Could you go to Slide 20?

Colleen Higginbotham: Which one are you looking for?

Barbara Naomi Cohen-Stratyner: 20.

Colleen Higginbotham: There you are.

Barbara Naomi Cohen-Stratyner: Yes. This is one of the challenges that many American museums have, and we certainly noticed causing issues for staff. And what it says is, in the AAM National Standards, it recommends the museum complies with local, state, and federal laws, codes, and regulations applicable to the facility operation and administration. Which should just mean the museum obeys the rules of its community.

But certainly, in the last two years, many museums have complained that the local, state, and federal laws conflict and recommend or even require different things.

The Alliance recommendations were that the museum is encouraged to adopt the most inclusive and welcoming stance appropriate to its mission and its audience. But there are still museums that are having internal conflict or conflicts that arise with visitors and, therefore, are a problem for visitor‑facing personnel.

And there are recommendations, but really what personnel needs is recognition to have said, reflect, which also sometimes is training. And so, can you talk a little bit about the trainings that you have recommended for the personnel? And the things that are required, things that are normal, like onboarding, but also anything that was specific to the visitor‑facing experience.

Colleen Higginbotham: Well, I think for us, with our gallery host, who is again our main group of forward‑facing team, we have a five‑day onboarding which is, as you can imagine, relatively thorough, trying to talk about serving and embracing all the different ways our visitors are different, and how we can serve them as best we can, as well as training for practical things including emergency procedures, and getting an introduction to the collection as they’re sharing that with visitors.

When we did special things when COVID, we had to learn about body language and facial language with a mask, both what we project and as well as what we see from our visitors and how that tells us what they might like from us. We found some great resources, like if you can only see the sides of the eyes, then what can you tell from the eyes. We learned quite a lot, actually. So that was something that we added to that training.

Jonathan Dix: Yeah, sharing a commonality of having a gallery host, too, which I feel is kind of uncommon with a lot of mainstream museums, is there’s a little bit of focus, kind of, depending on the front‑facing group. Gallery hosts’ focus is a lot about hospitality. Our security folks are a little bit about de-escalation. Our educators focus on interactions with younger folks and group and classroom interactions of that nature. But we do have some trainings that we kind of across the board cross‑departmentalize because there’s so much value in it. Some of those are de-escalation, active shooter. Anyone can be in a bad situation, and we always push so that everyone can have that kind of safety and heart to navigate a situation that can be extremely kind of detrimental but also stressful. Then we also do focus on some things that are a little bit lighter, like art. We do across the board collection trainings, and we do them on a month‑to‑month basis, and we incorporate all staff whether they’re front‑facing or office staff, just to learn more about our collections and the artwork in and of itself, because anyone can engage with anyone at any time, and no one is a savant of all things. So why not be a savant of something? And then we focus on DEI. We definitely put a lot of our eggs in the basket of diversity and equity and accessibility and inclusion, and we do those on a month‑to‑month basis, as well, and cover a bunch of wide and all‑facing topics that can be ranging from race to privilege. They’re deep‑seeded conversations to educate folks to be more aware of their surroundings and what privileges they might have and might not think about and also to consider some things they might not see or see on a day‑to‑day.

Barbara Naomi Cohen-Stratyner: Yes. We have, actually all New York City employees have, trainings on harassment in general, and those who are both staff and volunteers.

Then people who work with children or places where there are children have to do the child safety training, which is also true for anyone who volunteers or teaches in the schools. Which means apart from everything else, that anyone doing reading sessions, including (? indecipherable) has to take a child safety training, which makes it sort of interesting in the group.

We also have ‑‑ it took a long time for some of the volunteers to come back. And some of my colleagues who work with volunteers in other museums are still having that issue, partly because the volunteers tend to be, of course, older than staff, and partly because the volunteers really have gotten their lives changed by the lockdown. So that has been a problem. There have been museums that, for reasons that, frankly, I don’t understand, put off bringing back visitor service staff, both the staff and volunteers, which I would have ‑‑ which we all could have told them was not great.

Are there other ongoing issues you found that the staff actually, even more than what you have found, that the staff had brought to your attention, things that you were not expecting?

Jonathan Dix: So, I would say one of the first things that comes to mind which I found surprising was communication, and communication not only externally but internally. We were surprised, well I found it very surprising, with everyone coming back, we found it more difficult to communicate to one another with all the other front‑facing activities and events. For example, we have a Learning Engagement Team that may be focusing on public programming that, of course, deals directly with the public, but then we also have two adjacent teams that could be working alongside a day of operations, such as the Visitor Experience Team working in the galleries, or Security Team working on our entrances, and we might be completely unaware that 200 or 300 or even 1,000 extra folks might be coming towards the tail end of our day or staying two hours past our closure, because at some point communication has run a little bit muddy. Or some groups might be coming in with completely different start times or end times. It took quite a while for us to start getting on the same page and communicate, you know, “These are our expectations and these are the people who might be involved,” because a lot of folks felt like it was a need‑to‑know basis, and they didn’t really know who needed to know, and it really took a lot of really strong minds to come together and focus up and have one isolated group of all the arbiters of all things public programming, public‑facing, and interactive with all guests to make sure the same information is being communicated to the wonderful folks visiting, as well as the folks potentially keeping people safe and running the show; so that there was no more, “Oh, this event actually ended an hour ago, but here we are two hours at 9:00, and we have to close because of some other circumstances of another event starting.”

So, communications is definitely one of the biggest things that became an hurdle that we had no expectations, when we thought having more people coming in might make communications even easier.

Barbara Naomi Cohen-Stratyner: Yes. I’m sure we all had that problem.

Colleen Higginbotham: One thing, I’ll skip ahead to a later slide, which is just it didn’t start in COVID, but it was strong in COVID, some of those vulnerable situations with visitors. Again, I mentioned people who were upset about policies or procedures or things like that. No matter what the situation, I think the front‑line staff wants that same kind of support, whether that’s an interaction with a colleague from another department or within their own department, with visitors.

We talk a lot about visitors behaving oddly, which could mean any number of things. Could be a security concern. Could be too much personal interest. Maybe someone flirting or taking way too much personal interest in a staff member. Could be just something that seems off. And we want people to recognize those instincts. We want to let them know they are supported. And we will make sure everyone knows those policies. We make sure the managers and floor supervisors are ready to respond. We have training in de‑escalation, as mentioned before. And really communicating after each of those situations. So again, not mattering whether it was someone was upset about a mask policy or if they were upset about any policy, now, or if their behavior is simply unacceptable in a museum.

Sometimes we can’t always respond the way the front‑line team may wish that we did. Maybe some of the front‑line team thought someone should be asked to leave and others thought that the behavior was okay. But trying to have that open conversation afterwards saying this is why we decided to do what we did, and really trying to be transparent with that after each situation.

Barbara Naomi Cohen-Stratyner: Yeah. Unfortunately, anger management, that training has been required in a number of situations, partly because there was just not ‑‑ it was just not anticipated to the point that it was.

And we found also with communication that there have been so many situations in the past, before COVID, where communication was like someone in the hallway. So, if you knew that a group was coming in and would stay an extra half an hour, you would just walk down the hall and tell the person who needed to know. But when we were all out of the building or we were on different schedules, there was a major gap.

And there was especially a problem for the Library, because the Library is actually 300 facilities. And so, some of the regulations that came across were not good for some of those facilities. Were there any other special trainings, as well as anger management?

Jonathan Dix: Some of the special trainings that, they probably don’t stand aligned to anger management, but with the new interfaces everyone was kind of working with, since we had so many different schedules operating, we had people working from home. We had hybrid. We had people working on‑site. We got introduced to a bunch of different platforms. And one specifically I guess that we’re all masters at now is Zoom, and we had a ton of webinars on proper Zoom etiquette and what’s private and not private; these ideologies of letting your private spaces become public spaces for meetings, and what was and was not appropriate for communication.

And we moved into, okay, everyone has to be accessible, because people were working different numbers of days and different locations; and how do we give accessibility to everyone? So, we started to give out work cell phones, and everyone had these cell phones they might not be keen on because they might be used to different iOS systems, like Apple versus Microsoft. We had all these different sometimes related and sometimes unrelated technology kind of webinars and seminars and conversations. It took a lot of time for everybody to get on the page with, okay, everyone is using Microsoft 365. Not to be a plug for Microsoft 365, but people were using different functionalities and platforms that some were more keen on than others, and it was very disastrous. So it took a lot of time to consolidate and make sure we were all aware of what people were focusing on, and how to get them on the same page, versus other folks who may be more keen on these systems because they use it. So regardless of your technology advancements, you all had to participate in base‑level training and work together so that there was a fundamental understanding, at least base‑line campus‑wide.

Colleen Higginbotham: I think for us, at the same time, we had always had DEI training, but because social justice became such an issue around the same time as our reopening, we had sort of all‑staff training that was, again, building on things that already existed and that we continue to build on as we go forward.

I know we only have about five minutes left. I asked in the chat if anyone had any questions, but I don’t see any yet. If anyone does, I hope they put them in.

Barbara Naomi Cohen-Stratyner: Did any questions come on? Okay. I had one question.

Colleen Higginbotham: Oh, I see something. We do have one here. How are you supporting front‑line staff several years into the pandemic? What things have gone back to pre‑pandemic normal and what policies that were changed during COVID are here to stay for your orgs?

I can say for us we live in an area where things largely we have gone back to a new normal. I don’t know if it’s all exactly the same, but largely we are able to be at our pre‑pandemic selves. And I think supporting them, again, about respecting them and listening, so respecting their humanity. And by that, I mean things like not policing bathrooms, but also making sure they get their full break, and respecting their individuality and their talents and goals and interests, and trying to make sure we value that, as well. And just the fact that they’re humans, so they’re going to have other things in their lives.

Using language, we have our all‑staff meetings. Some museums will call things all‑staff and the front line is excluded. So, for me, it’s important to include them.

And listening to their feedback. They’re experts on our visitors, and so then know how people use our museum better than any of us.

Again, trusting their judgment and giving them leeway to make some decisions, and investing in them. We take a few front‑line staff to our AAM conference, and this year being in Baltimore close to us we plan to have several. We think that’s a good investment for us.

Jonathan Dix: Yeah. To speak to the same question, largely we are pretty much full functioning to pre‑pandemic standards. The couple caveats are if you want to wear a mask, you wear a mask; and if you feel uncomfortable with other folks around you who aren’t wearing a mask, there’s always masks present. That’s really great that there’s always that accessibility to having masks.

And to provide equity to staff, really focusing on equity, as well, where we’re focusing on happiness, and looking at that in a bunch of different ways. Of course, fundamentally, informatively, getting people more aware of mental health and taking time off, and making sure you take time off, and giving them resource to take that time off, but also doing lighter fields like yoga and interacting with people in ways that they see that activity and comradery, but also that are stress relieving as opposed to a staff breakfast you do once a month. We do more things with popular vote to communication what people would like to see and as a community and one unified faction.

Barbara Naomi Cohen-Stratyner: Yes. We unfortunately ‑‑ I’m sorry. We unfortunately are part of two large organizations. And the New York ‑‑ the culturals in New York, or the 63 museums, the historic houses, as well as some of the library facilities, have some permanent staff for security, but also use this rotating pool of security. So, someone you expect to see in your institution may be working somewhere else, which means they don’t necessarily feel as much a part of the staff. And that could be a problem.

The volunteers not wanting to go back to a firm commitment has been a problem for many institutions in the area. It’s getting better, but it was difficult for a while.

I actually transitioned to (? indecipherable) during this period, but I’m doing collections work.

But I still had to keep up to date on those trainings.

Some of the locations in North America, especially in the United States, had more challenging reopenings in terms of the expectations from the public not necessarily being the same as the expectations of the museums.

It was a little easier in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic areas, I think.

Were there any other questions?

Colleen Higginbotham: I don’t see any others coming through, but I know Cecelia from AAM wanted to pop on.

Cecelia Walls: Hello. Can everyone hear me?

Barbara Naomi Cohen-Stratyner: I would ask, then, have you as a museum visitor had any big challenging situations? Or have you seen other people’s museums? You know we all go to other people’s museums all the time.

Colleen Higginbotham: I think AAM was trying to jump in.

Cecelia Walls: Are you ready for the end slide?

Colleen Higginbotham: Are we at our time?

Cecelia Walls: You have about four minutes left.

Colleen Higginbotham: Oh, well, then I can talk more on this. I think we’re in a lucky spot. Our area did not experience the same sort of shutdowns in the length that you all have. We were even able to do our glass‑blowing classes right away. We took the “blowing” out of glass‑blowing and found a way to use compressed air and found a way to keep going and doing things, which is great.

Jonathan Dix: That’s really great.

I was going to say a lot of the things we ended up doing is we actually went virtual with all of our teachings and all of our groups. A large portion of the museum wasn’t actually documented in a 3D rendered way, so it pushed out to 3D render the entire museum, which must have been a lot of fun for the folks involved with an empty museum and no one getting in the way. But it enabled us to have the totality of our experiences to be virtual. We did escape rooms and art‑making activities and virtual walk‑throughs. We did everything you can, and we made it virtual.

Barbara Naomi Cohen-Stratyner: That’s great.

Yeah, I remember going to MoMA about a week after it opened and being alone with Starry Night, which was the most amazing thing. I’d never been alone in that gallery before.

But I know a number of museums had fewer classes because the schools were not doing as many ‑‑ some of the schools were remote. And they were having a problem with bus trips and not wanting to schedule students for anything outside the buildings. So, the institutions that were reliant on class visits and school visits were having problems, having less visits, but also having less income from the visits.

Colleen Higginbotham: I think, again, our structure of being a free admission museum and our school tours are free, as well, so financially we did see a drop in school tours but that didn’t impact us that way, but we wanted to get all the schoolkids here and we are excited to see them everyday. We have gotten them back. The private schools were a little more nimble and able to bounce back quicker. But we’re back. Our grade‑wide tours, every fourth grader in Norfolk comes to our museum, so we’re really happy to see those full big programs back.

Barbara Naomi Cohen-Stratyner: That’s good.

Thank you very much.

Colleen Higginbotham: Yes, thank you all for listening. And thank you, Barbara, for including me here.

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