Skip to content

Preparing to reopen 


Support Free COVID-19 Resources for the Field:
These resources have been taken out from behind the member paywall to make them free and accessible for all. The current crisis is taking a distressing financial toll on cultural organizations, and AAM is no different. In these challenging times, we ask that if you can, consider supporting our advocacy work and making extensive COVID-19 resources freely available for our field, by making a donation or becoming a member of AAM. Thank you for your much-needed support.

Updated 1/13/2021

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.

Download AAM’s resource guide on museum reopenings

Last updated November 12, 2020

Click here to see sample reopening plans

Share your museum’s reopening plans and stories!

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.
  • Watch #AAMvirtual, AAM’s virtual convening held May 18 and June 1-4, was where the museum community came together to address how we might 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.

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

Help other museums by sharing your plans and stories

Additional Resources

AAM Member-Only Content

AAM Members get exclusive access to premium digital content including:

  • Featured articles from Museum magazine
  • Access to more than 1,500 resource listings from the Resource Center
  • Tools, reports, and templates for equipping your work in museums
Log In

We're Sorry

Your current membership level does not allow you to access this content.

Upgrade Your Membership

Subscribe to Field Notes!

Packed with stories and insights for museum people, Field Notes is delivered to your inbox every Monday. Once you've completed the form below, confirm your subscription in the email sent to you.

If you are a current AAM member, please sign-up using the email address associated with your account.

Are you a museum professional?

Are you a current AAM member?

Success! Now check your email to confirm your subscription, and please add to your safe sender list.