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.
- Download a PDF of AAM’s resource guide on museum reopenings
- Purchase the updated Reopening Starter Kit for Museums
- 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.
- 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.
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 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.
- Join the robust conversation on Museum Junction to learn alongside your peers.
- Access additional guidance on AAM’s COVID-19 resource page on preparing to reopen.
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
- Boone County History & Culture Center
- Children’s Museum of Manhattan
- Clinton County History Center
- Discovery Park of America
- Everhart Museum
- Government guidance to museums in Michoacán, México (in Spanish/en español)
- Imperial Valley Desert Museum
- Japanese Friendship Garden Society of San Diego
- John Geraldine Lilley Museum of Art
- 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Help other museums by sharing your plans and stories
- The Alliance shares:
- Earning Income from Education Programs during COVID-19
- Why We’re Staying Closed
- How to Get Ready to Open the Doors
- Diary of a Museum Reopening
- Lessons Learned from SARS: How Museums Emerge After Crisis
- Purchase the updated Reopening Starter Kit for Museums
- Restarting Teams to Restart Museums
- Security and Operational Priorities for Reopening Cultural Institutions
- Tips for Maintaining Accessibility During and After COVID-19
- What Will Become of Interactive Art When Museums Reopen?
- AASLH is sharing a lot of useful content in blog posts and recorded webinar format:
- So Much Trouble in the World (blog)
- AASLH Conversations: Guidelines and Procedures for Reopening Your Historic Site (recorded webinar)
- AASLH Conversations: Planning for Reopening (recorded webinar)
- 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.
- The American Library Association (ALA) has a set of useful resources, including a checklist, for reopening on its website.
- American Enterprise Institute has posted a National coronavirus response: A road map to reopening.
- Artnet News shares several useful posts on reopening, including:
- How Should a Museum Reopen in a Post-COVID World? Here Is Everything You Need to Know to Do It Safely, According to Experts
- 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
- Three Museum Directors Offer a Behind-the-Scenes Look at How They Are Tackling the Challenge of Reopening Their Institutions Post-Lockdown
- 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 on their blog.
- The CDC released several useful guides on reopening protocols:
- Specialist wayfinding and design consultancy CCD Design & Ergonomics and Smartify, the world’s most downloaded museum app, have published a toolkit to support museums adopting new social distancing measures.
- 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 and has developed this community document where museums are posting their reopening plans and policies. The webinars include the following:
- 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.
- For sites with restaurants or cafes on-site, Entrepreneur magazine has posted 5 Ways Restaurant Owners Can Prepare for Reopening.
- The Environmental Protection Agency has this list of disinfectants that can be used safely to disinfect against COVID-19.
- 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.
- Watch the Exploratorium’s recorded webinar on “COVID Conversations: Children, Masks, and the Surge” which covers what is known about children and the virus, new data on airborne transmission and the effectiveness of masks.
- 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.
- ICOM’s blog post on Museums and end of lockdown: Ensuring the safety of the public and staff offers good advice on how to prepare sites for reopening. They have also published this report on museums and COVID-19.
- 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 Long Island Children’s Museum has posted its Cleaning Procedures, online.
- Membership Consultants conducted a webinar on How to Prepare for When Your Institution Reopens discussing reopening strategies for membership and fundraising efforts.
- The Museum and Cultural Heritage Industry Working Group of the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) published Reopening: Guidance for Museums and Collecting Institutions.
- Popular podcast, Museum Confidential discusses how we reopen after COVID-19 in the season 3 finale.
- The National Center for Preservation Technology and Training (NCPTT) has recorded several useful resources on COVID-19 response and preparation, including:
- Download the National Endowment for the Arts’ (NEA) Art of Reopening: A Guide to Current Practices Among Arts Organizations During COVID-19 which covers common practices among arts groups that successfully have reopened their doors to audiences or visitors during the COVID-19 pandemic. And, watch this webinar recording on Best Practices for Reopening Arts Venues.
- The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences has developed comprehensive COVID-19 Response Training tools to help organizations prepare for reopening.
- Good Practice Guidelines for Reopening Museums from the National Museum Director’s Council.
- The National Restaurant Association partnered with the FDA to develop this set of guidance for reopening safely.
- 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 New England Museums Association conducted a Town Hall Discussion on how museums should plan to reopen in the New England region.
- OCLC created the REALM project to help archives, libraries, and museums reopen. This toolkit provides useful resources on caring for resources, a visual aid with test results on how long the virus stays on certain materials, and a decision-making checklist.
- The Oklahoma Museums Association shares museum “open to the public” guidance.
This YouTube video walks through the steps Old Salem Museums & Gardens used to analyze the effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic and how it decided to proceed with a hybrid operations model for the remainder of 2020.
- OSHA provides its Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19.
- PerchMade created this useful toolkit on the path forward.
- 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.
- This blog post from Smartify published on Medium gives suggestions for Museums and Social Distancing: A Planning Toolkit.
- This Disability Issues Brief from the Southeast ADA Center and Burton Blatt Institute (BBI) at Syracuse University includes information on when a business should and should not modify a mask policy to be in compliance with the ADA.
- 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.
- The Wallace Foundation conducted a survey pre-pandemic about how post-performance survey data can help arts organizations learn more about their audiences.