Revisiting Recommendations and Considerations for Re-Opening Museums: Re-Opening 2021
It has been a year since the COVID-19 pandemic was first declared. A year since the first lockdown started in March of 2020. A year since museums had to first grapple with re-opening under the health and safety measures to ensure protection for their staff, their volunteers, and their visitors.
Many of you are once again looking at what you need to do to re-open safely in 2021. The Recommendations and Considerations for Re-Opening Museums document that we put out last year is still a good starting point, especially if you did not open to the public last year. The considerations that are outlined there are as valid today as they were back in the Spring of 2020.
The greatest difficulty that we will be facing in 2021 will be restrictions and lockdowns that emerge as we try to slow the spread of the highly virulent new strains of the coronavirus that are currently present in Saskatchewan. How ever you are able to re-open this year, at all times you should be in full compliance with the provincial health authorities’ recommendations and measures. Keep yourself up-to-date with the latest news of COVID-19 in Saskatchewan here. It is important to be aware that depending on the spread of the virus in your community and Saskatchewan as a whole, may see non-essential services (such as museums and galleries) temporarily closed.
Having staff (volunteers/students) and visitors onsite
If you did not have a chance to look it over when it came out last year the Supporting Seasonal Staff During COVID-19: A Quick Guide for Canadian Museums is a good starting point. While we are now seeing the vaccine rollout well underway, the variant strains of COVID are highly contagious. The Government of Saskatchewan requires that non-medical masks are required to be worn in all indoor public spaces. Even if you have received the first dose of the vaccine, you must still wear a mask and continue to practice safe physical distancing (keeping 2 metres apart). When you are able to open to the public you will need to make sure that you keep in mind the restrictions on the number of people that you may have in your building at any one time (you can find these permissible gathering sizes under the current Provincial Public Health Orders, you can see all the current public health measures here).
Last year many expressed concern over having to enforce the mandatory mask rule. As stated above, the Government of Saskatchewan currently requires that non-medical masks be worn in all indoor public spaces. Your best protection is to ensure that you have a consistent voice across your organisation regarding how you are opening. This means, up-dating your website, your answering service, social media, anywhere that the public finds you, to reflect your adjusted hours, booking protocols, etc. Have signs on your doors and by your admissions desk to remind your audience of the measure you are taking. Keep these signs up-dated, and it does not hurt to have masks available in case a visitor forgets theirs.
And please remember, if you close due to new restrictions in the Public Health Orders, up-date everything (Facebook, website, notices on doors, message on phone, etc.) to reflect the change in reaching you and visiting your institution.
Open when and if you can do so safely.
Implementing regular cleaning schedules and/or keeping cleaning supplies beside frequently used spaces (elevator buttons, bathrooms, handrails, etc.) can help keep you, your staff, your volunteers, and your visitors safe. Knowing that you are taking the health of your visitors’ seriously, being seen to clean frequently touched surfaces, reinforces the notion that you care. It is reassuring to your public as much as it is to yourself. If you are looking for more specific advice on what to clean and how to clean it, please check out the CDC’s “Cleaning and Disinfecting Your Facility”. Surfaces that you should be cleaning and disinfecting regularly are not your collections.
If you are leaving cleaning supplies out for visitors to use, check those supplies regularly.
Caring for your historical collections during COVID
There was a lot of concern last year about how to protect your collections during the pandemic. The Canadian Conservation Institute put out a document last year about how to care for your collections during the COVID-19 pandemic, this is an excellent resource.
The greatest protection you can offer your collections during this time is ensuring that staff and visitors alike are properly wearing their masks, and that no one is unnecessarily touching any of your historical artefacts. It is still not recommended to disinfect your artefacts; regular seasonal cleaning should be fine. Any cleaning of historical collections beyond the typical should be carried out in consultation with a conservator.
Protecting people is how you can ensure protecting your collections; wear masks, clean hands regularly, and wear gloves.
We are all in this together. Take care and stay safe.
Resources (all last accessed 12 April 2021):
Association of Nova Scotia Museums, BC Museums Association, Museums Association of Saskatchewan, and Yukon Historical Museums Association. “Supporting Seasonal Staff during COVID-19: A Quick Guide for Canadian Museums.” April 2020. https://saskmuseums.org/files/Supporting_Seasonal_Staff_During_COVID-19.pdf
Canadian Conservation Institute. “Caring for Heritage Collections During the COVID-19 Pandemic.” Government of Canada. Version 2, 24 July 2020. https://www.canada.ca/en/conservation-institute/services/conservation-preservation-publications/canadian-conservation-institute-notes/caring-heritage-collections-covid19.html
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
“Cleaning and Disinfecting Your Facility.” Updated 05 April 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/disinfecting-building-facility.html?CDC_AA_refVal=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.cdc.gov%2Fcoronavirus%2F2019-ncov%2Fprepare%2Fdisinfecting-building-facility.html
“When You’ve Been Fully Vaccinated.” Updated 02 April 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/fully-vaccinated.html
Government of Canada:
“Non-medical masks: About.” https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/2019-novel-coronavirus-infection/prevention-risks/about-non-medical-masks-face-coverings.html
Museums Association of Saskatchewan:
“Considerations When Re-Opening Museums.” May 2020. https://saskmuseums.org/files/Final_-_Considerations_When_Re-Opening_Museums_.pdf
“Considerations When Re-Opening Museums.” YouTube, Presented 24 June 2020, Uploaded 15 July 2020. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GhhAQ1JTQjg
“Recommendations and Considerations for Re-Opening Museums.” June 2020. https://saskmuseums.org/files/Final_-_Recommendations_and_Considerations_for_Re-Opening_Museums.pdf
“Cases and Risk of COVID-19 on Saskatchewan.” https://www.saskatchewan.ca/government/health-care-administration-and-provider-resources/treatment-procedures-and-guidelines/emerging-public-health-issues/2019-novel-coronavirus/cases-and-risk-of-covid-19-in-saskatchewan
“Child and Youth Day Camp Guidelines.” https://www.saskatchewan.ca/government/health-care-administration-and-provider-resources/treatment-procedures-and-guidelines/emerging-public-health-issues/2019-novel-coronavirus/re-open-saskatchewan-plan/guidelines/child-and-youth-day-camp-guidelines
“Latest Updates.” https://www.saskatchewan.ca/government/health-care-administration-and-provider-resources/treatment-procedures-and-guidelines/emerging-public-health-issues/2019-novel-coronavirus/latest-updates
“Libraries, Museums, Art Galleries and Animal Exhibition Guidelines.” https://www.saskatchewan.ca/government/health-care-administration-and-provider-resources/treatment-procedures-and-guidelines/emerging-public-health-issues/2019-novel-coronavirus/re-open-saskatchewan-plan/guidelines/libraries-museums-art-galleries-and-animal-exhibits-guidelines
“Saskatchewan Releases COVID-19 Vaccination Delivery Plan.” 09 February, 20201. https://www.saskatchewan.ca/government/news-and-media/2021/february/09/saskatchewan-releases-covid-19-vaccination-delivery-plan