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Preparing to reopen 

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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.

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.

Coordinate locally

  • Coordinate with authorities. Establish and continue communication with state and local authorities.
  • Coordinate with other museums. Connect with other museums in your community for consistency and possibly for supply sharing. For a list of other AAM member institutions in your area, see AAM’s member museum directory.

Assess conditions

Even when legally permitted to reopen, museum leaders should determine when they feel they can do so safely, keeping in mind considerations such as:

  • Downward trend in local COVID-19 cases: Federal guidelines from the previous administration identify criteria for states to satisfy before they proceed to their phased reopening plans, such as reporting a declining trajectory of coronavirus cases for 14 days straight.
  • Sufficient staff resources: Many museums have furloughed or laid off staff as a result of COVID-19 closures. Your museum may need time to recruit, hire, orient, and properly train or retrain staff at all levels in operating, safety, and enhanced cleaning procedures. You may also need to hire additional staff in key functions such as custodial services and security.
  • Availability of equipment and supplies: Before reopening, ensure that you have adequate supplies to support and communicate healthy hygiene behaviors for staff and visitors, to provide appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), and to properly clean/disinfect your facilities—and that essential supplies can be restocked as needed.

Prioritize health and safety

In developing your museum’s plan for reopening, follow guidance from the CDC, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), as well as orders and recommendations from federal/state/local governments and your state and local health officials.

Establish clear cleaning/disinfecting and ventilation protocols

Update your museum’s cleaning protocols based on CDC’s recommendations for cleaning and disinfecting facilities, CDC’s reopening guidance for cleaning and disinfecting public spaces and workplaces, and industry-recommended practices for collections care. If you operate a food-service area, follow FDA best practices.

Update your workplace policies and support your staff

Policies for employee leave, telework, and compensation should be reviewed and updated to protect your staff, provide flexibility, and ensure that sick employees are able to stay home. Also consider the emotional toll on your staff and take steps to promote wellness.

Provide training for staff

Museums should provide guidance or training for staff to protect staff and promote safe interactions with visitors. The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) offers educational resources and tools intended for workers who are at greatest risk of exposure during the COVID-19 pandemic, including a training on protecting oneself from COVID-19 in the workplace.

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.

Connect with the broader museum community

Connect with other museums in your community for consistency and supply sharing.

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.

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 content@aam-us.org.

Help other museums by sharing your plans and stories

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