Museums and Historic Sites Have Mixed Response to COVID-19

With concerns about the COVID-19 virus increasing, schools have moved to online instruction, the United States has closed entry to European citizens, and late-night talk shows are performing to empty rooms. The response by museums and historic sites, however, has been mixed. Some major museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Smithsonian Institution, and Historic New England have closed or will close soon. Because of the major outbreak in Seattle, Washington, museums in that city are most affected. The Seattle Art Museum, Museum of History and Industry, and Burke Museum have closed effective today or yesterday through at least the end of the month. Other history organizations, such as The Alamo, Colonial Williamsburg, and Minnesota Historical Society are proceeding as normal, not even mentioning the current epidemic and its effect on their operations.

Others are open but have addressed the epidemic with detailed messages on their websites:

Field Museum in Chicago

At the Field Museum, you and all members of our community are extremely important to us. We’re actively monitoring developments related to the COVID-19 novel coronavirus and staying in touch with the relevant authorities: the City of Chicago, the Illinois Department of Public Health, and the CDC.

As always, we’re committed to maintaining a safe environment for our visitors, members, staff, and supporters. Though the situation may change, we are currently open and welcoming visitors to enjoy our exhibitions and learning opportunities.

Please also support the larger Chicago community by fighting stigma and preventing the spread of misinformation. The virus is not specific to any race, ethnicity, or nationality. Any assumptions about a person’s descent or infection status are harmful and discriminatory. We’re proud of diversity at the Field and as a part of the global scientific community.

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Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County

At the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, La Brea Tar Pits, and the William S. Hart Museum, our top priority is the safety and well-being of our guests, staff, and volunteers so we are taking precautionary measures in this uncertain time.

At this moment, our museums and surrounding parks remain open for daily offerings and we are continuing to work closely with Los Angeles County Public Health Department officials to monitor the situation. This situation is rapidly changing so please check back for updates. In the meantime, we have added hand-sanitizing stations on every floor and in galleries, we have increased the cleaning services throughout the museums, and are encouraging staff, volunteers and guests to stay home if they are sick.

In light of predicted rain showers in L.A. this weekend, and due to the inability to safely move all the hands-on activities into the museum, we have postponed our annual indoor-outdoor L.A. Nature Fest at NHM scheduled for March 14 and 15, until a later date.

In addition, in response to today’s State and County directives about social distancing, effective Saturday, March 14, we have postponed or cancelled all 3D films and performances at NHM and the Tar Pits, the seasonal Butterfly Pavilion at NHM, as well as all planned onsite and community programs and events through April 10, including First Fridays set for April 3. And effective Monday, March 16, we will be cancelling school visits to our museums and mobile museum visits to schools across the County until further notice.

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History Colorado

Responding to Coronavirus and COVID-19

History Colorado’s first priority is the safety of our guests, staff, and volunteers. We remain operational at this time, based on guidance from public health officials, and are taking extra steps to help people stay healthy. Up-to-date information regarding specific changes to our operations are noted at the bottom of this page.

Cleanliness

The History Colorado Center and all History Colorado museums have strengthened their rigorous cleaning efforts. Sanitation frequency has increased, especially in high-traffic areas. Our staff is also working to ensure that all hand sanitizers, soaps, and paper towel dispensers are full and operational at all times.

Flexibility

History Colorado pledges flexibility to our community members facing uncertainty as they make plans. Any cancellation to events or programs made by History Colorado will be communicated as quickly and widely as possible, and include refunds wherever possible. You can rely on us to be responsible, reasonable, and responsive. We invite you to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Community Care

Take everyday actions to protect yourself and those you love. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has recommendations and resources for you here. We echo their guidance, especially by actively encouraging all of our staff, volunteers, and guests to stay home when sick. We appreciate your partnership in carefully responding to matters of public health. Thank you!

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Atlanta History Center

The health and safety of the Museum’s visitors, staff, and volunteers is our top priority. Atlanta History Center is closely monitoring guidelines put forth by Centers for Disease Control and Georgia health officials as we review all operations, programs, events, travel, and other activities.

Our Museum is open. There are steps both the Museum is taking, and those we ask our visitors to take, to ensure the safety of all. On the Museum’s part, we have greatly increased cleaning across the Museum, postponed some public events, and are asking staff to follow the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control.

For visitors, we ask you to also follow the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control, which include: wash your hands frequently and follow other common hygiene practices. And if you’re sick, we ask that you not visit until you’re well. Importantly, please also follow the CDC recommendation to self-quarantine for 14 days if you have visited a Level 2 or 3 area.

We hope you enjoy your visit.

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The COVID-19 epidemic is an ever-evolving situation and advice has been confusing, but the Centers for Disease Control and the Coronavirus Resource Center at Johns Hopkins University are reliable sources. As you can see, every museum and historic site has to figure out its own response to epidemics and emergencies. This situation is a good reminder to regularly update your disaster and emergency response plans.

8 thoughts on “Museums and Historic Sites Have Mixed Response to COVID-19

  1. David Grabitske

    Max,

    Gov Abbott is expected to make an announcement at noon today (3-13) regarding COVID-19. State Historic Sites were ordered yesterday to begin preparing to close. Stay tuned.

    David

    >

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  2. Sara Bhatia

    Max — I’m interested in what museums are doing in the space between ‘we’re open for business but cleaning more carefully,” and “we’re closing, to protect the health of our staff and the public.” I haven’t seen much creativity here, but Old Salem is doing something smart — they’ve hustled and created a brand new online platform “Exploratorium” to provide virtual learning experiences for school groups which have cancelled visits to the site because of Coronavirus. They’ve just launched the first video, “Geology, Pottery & Place,” and are promoting it through social media.

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  3. Max van Balgooy Post author

    Thanks, Sara! Old Salem’s response to the cancellation of field trips shows how quickly a satisfactory video can be produced as an alternative to field trips (it was posted on March 13). It looks like they’re using available light without lavalier microphones, but it’s absolutely acceptable for teaching online. More importantly, the interpretation and conversation is thoughtful and engaging. You can find the 15-minute video “Old Salem Exploratorium Episode 1: Geology, Pottery and Place!” at https://youtu.be/0Ou2WEuO2rw.

    Museum associations are also assembling lots of information, far too much to list here, but check out:

    VAM’s “Virginia Museums and the Coronovirus” at https://www.vamuseums.org/news/virginia-museums-and-the-coronavirus

    AAM’s “Information for the Museum Field on the COVID-19/Coronavirus” at https://www.aam-us.org/2020/03/05/information-for-the-museum-field-on-the-covid-19-coronavirus/ and “Health in the Workplace: COVID-19/coronavirus” at https://www.aam-us.org/programs/resource-library/human-resource-resources/health-in-the-workplace/

    I’ve also noticed that some historic sites, such as Hillwood and Tudor Place, may have ceased tours, events, and school programs but they are keeping their gardens open. They recognize that their gardens provide their community an essential respite from the anxiety produced by a pandemic as well as a welcome relief from being quarantined. I hope others follow their lead. As the advocacy firm M+R reminds us, “Right now, the vast majority of most organization’s audiences are not sick. (Let’s keep it that way, mmkay?) Many are sticking close to home. There has to be more for them to do than scroll through half-baked articles and binge on Netflix. Be the something.”

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