Preparing to reopen
The American Alliance of Museums recommends that museums build flexible plans for reopening that are regularly reviewed and refined based on the latest science. This guidance is based on the best available information as of publication and is not intended to supersede guidance from public health officials, medical experts, and federal/state/local governments. Museums are encouraged to seek legal and other expert advice on their specific circumstances. Below are some thoughts for reopening.
Last updated May 4, 2020
Develop a phased timeline
A gradual approach allows your museum to prioritize health and safety while taking progressive steps to restore regular operations. It also provides flexibility for regular monitoring and revision of your plan.
Prioritize health and safety
Follow CDC and OSHA/HHS guidance as well as orders and recommendations from federal/state/ local governments and your state and local health officials. Review and incorporate into your plan relevant guidance for communities, workplaces, and events.
Establish clear cleaning protocols
Update your museum’s cleaning protocols based on CDC recommendations for cleaning and disinfecting facilities and industry-recommended practices for collections care. If you operate a food-service area, follow FDA best practices.
Review and update your workplace policies
Policies for employee leave, telework, and compensation should be reviewed and updated to protect your staff, provide flexibility, and allow sick employees to stay home.
Restrict contact, capacity, and access
As part of your museum’s phased approach, consider how you will limit person-to-person contact, monitor the number of visitors, and restrict or prohibit access to certain areas of the museum. With some States requiring the use of face masks and some areas suggesting people wear masks, here are some considerations to think about when crafting face mask policies.
Provide training for staff
Museums should provide training for staff to protect staff and promote safe interactions with visitors. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) offers educational resources intended for workers who are at greatest risk of exposure during the COVID-19 pandemic. Staff should be given clear guidelines for how to respond if visitors are not following health and safety protocols, such as alerting museum security or a high-level supervisor.
Communicate clearly and frequently
Communicate proactively with both staff and the public about your plans and the protocols in place for their health and safely. Research from Edelman found that people consider employer communications the most credible source of information about COVID-19, and we know that museums are among the most trusted institutions in their communities (see “Museums are Trusted” section of AAM’s Museum Facts and Data). Our institutions can play an important role in assuring staff and educating the public about the science and facts of COVID-19.
Coordinate your approach and connect with the museum community
Connect with other museums in your community for consistency and supply sharing.
- Join the robust conversation on Museum Junction to learn alongside your peers.
- Participate in #AAMvirtual, AAM’s virtual convening on May 18 and June 1-4, where the museum community will address how we can overcome the current threat and rebuild a more sustainable, inclusive, and powerful museum field for the future.
Sample reopening plans
To help museums share thinking as they navigate the challenges and uncertainties of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Alliance is compiling examples of reopening plans from individual institutions. These plans are specific to each museum’s circumstances and are not meant to be definitive guidance for developing your own. Instead, they provide a reference for what other museums are considering as they chart a course toward safely reopening.
- Baxter Springs Heritage Center and Kansas Route 66 Visitors Center
- Children’s Museum of Manhattan
- Discovery Park of America
- Everhart Museum
- Japanese Friendship Garden Society of San Diego
- Patuxent River Naval Air Museum Covid-19 Virus Response Plan
- Texas Historical Commission
Check the Alliance’s reopening guide frequently for updates, as we will be adding new examples as we receive them. If you have a plan or perspective on reopening you’d be interested in sharing with the broader museum field, please contact email@example.com.
Help other museums by sharing your plans and stories
- The Alliance blog shares:
- AASLH is sharing a lot of useful content in blog posts and recorded webinar format:
- The American Camp Association has released a detailed guide to reopening, as well as sharing the CDC’s helpful decision tree to make decisions about reopening camps this summer.
- American Enterprise Institute has posted a National coronavirus response: A road map to reopening.
- Artnet shares this Letter From Madrid: The Director of the Reina Sofia on What It Will Take for Museums to Rise Again—and What They Can Do in the Meantime
- Arrivalist’s Daily Travel Index measures consumer road trips of 50 miles or more in all 50 U.S. states, helping the travel and tourism industry monitor travel activity to inform forecasting and plans for recovery. They are now publishing a Weekly Briefing in their blog.
- Buffalo Bill Center of the West has reopened. Look at their website for their guidelines for visiting.
- The CDC released Interim Guidance for Child Care Programs in May.
- From Curae and Newfields this Long-Term Closure Re-Entry Checklist for Cultural Institutions and Collections Care Stewards provides a comprehensive list of items to consider when reopening a museum.
- Cuseum is conducting weekly webinars on various topics, including:
- Planning for Reopening after Coronavirus (recorded webinar)
- Preparing to Reopen – Strategy, Planning & Process on the Road to Reopening Museums (recorded webinar)
- This guidance from insurance firm DeWitt Stern includes information on developing a three-stage plan, and on human resources strategies.
- Disney has posted its liability disclaimer that could be useful to museums considering reopening.
- The Event Safety Alliance’s Reopening Guide addresses health and sanitary issues that event and venue professionals need to consider in order to protect both patrons and workers.
- Gensler is writing a lot of helpful blog posts about what will happen in offices, including:
- Huntington T. Block has developed a list of things to think about when getting ready to reopen.
- The International Facilities Management Association (IFMA) created a Pandemic Manual that covers a range of areas (staff, facilities, risk, food services) and helps facilities management professionals deal with safety and security before, during, and after a pandemic.
- JD Supra has posted Navigating ADA Issues in the Time of COVID-19: Four Situations Employers Should Be Prepared For.
- Johns Hopkins University has developed a useful resource to guide governors in making decisions on reopening in Public Health Principles for a Phased Reopening During COVID-19: Guidance for Governors
- Kroger Food and Drug has developed a blueprint of what they learned remaining open during COVID-19.
- Know Your Own Bone, is covering a lot of topics related to what to think about when the museum begins planning for reopening, including:
- The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences has developed comprehensive COVID-19 Response Training tools to help organizations prepare for reopening.
- The National Safety Council has created a taskforce charged with developing guidelines for employers to create safe workplaces in a post-COVID-19 world.
- NASCIO has developed a COVID-19 planning and response guide for State CIOs that includes information on planning and preparedness for reopening.
- The Oklahoma Museums Association shares a museum “open to the public” guidance.
- PGAV Destination’s weekly Deep Dive includes topics like retail and face masks for museum reopenings, as well as data from recent surveys they conducted with H2R on travel.
- Points of Light has developed a set of guidelines for in-person corporate volunteering that has some helpful information on involving volunteers in reopening plans.
- The Texas Department of State Health Services provides guidance on Opening the State of Texas.
- The UK Museums Association is gathering a taskforce to support reopening in England.