March 12, 2020
Since the coronavirus cases emerged in the past couple of weeks in the United States, there have been many questions people had about the coronavirus and what we should be doing to help prevent the spread. Museums are dedicated to both serving and being a part of the community as trustworthy resources. To do so, museum professionals need to make decisions to protect the staff, volunteers, and visitors especially from spread of diseases and viruses such as the coronavirus. Museums and non-profits are working hard to find out what decisions they need to make that will help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Because there have been concerns expressed by many individuals, museum professionals need to take many things into considerations especially the health and safety of their visitors while figuring out how to financially support their museum operations. As the staff and board meet to figure out how they will move forward, they are listening to health experts and making decisions based on what the state policy is put in place for the state they are located in. There are museums that decided to take precautions and cancel public programs because of escalating health concerns relating to the spread of the coronavirus; they also point out their priorities are the health and safety of their visitors, and recommend their visitors to follow the guidance of the Center For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which includes watching for the symptoms of fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Also, the American Association for State and Local History (AASLH) stated that they are collecting recommendations and resources more specific to historic sites and other history organizations and will share these as they become available. The New England Museum Association (NEMA) stated on their Twitter account: We’re keeping track of our region’s responses to the rapidly evolving COVID-19 situation. We will be adding updates on this thread of how our area museums are responding.
The American Alliance of Museums released resources and information for the museum field to help individual museums prepare both internally and externally for outbreaks in their communities. Some of the information they shared include educating the public on COVID-19, reviewing staff policies and administrative concerns, reviewing cleaning and collections care policies, preparing for closures, preparing for COVID-19 as an individual, and using digital platforms to remain connected to audiences during quarantines.
Tonight’s MuseumEdChat on Twitter was about sharing information about what our museums response are to COVID-19. Also, a Google Doc was released to share resources as well as museum/programming cancellations that will be continually updated. Some of the questions discussed were: did your museum have an emergency plan in place prior to COVID-19, or are you developing or modifying one as the situation develops? Bonus: did you consult with anyone on your plan? Our discussion reinforces the point that museum professionals have a lot of considerations when trying to figure out plans as our country faces the coronavirus pandemic.
Museums are also making decisions based on the safety of their staff and volunteers by postponing or cancelling professional development programs while most are waiting to see if new developments in the spread occurred when it gets closer to the programs. The New York City Museum Educators, for instance, postponed their professional development program and would re-open registration for the program once they confirm a new date. Also, the Museum Association of New York’s (MANY), as of the date this blog post will be released, Board of Directors are meeting and have contacted the venues and legislative representatives to help gauge their response to let members know what is happening with the annual conference. It is hard to not let fear take over our senses, but we should learn the facts and take the appropriate precautions.
The most responsible thing we could do is to educate ourselves on not only what it is, but we should understand how to properly take care ourselves. I included a number of resources to help provide knowledge on the coronavirus. Also, I discovered a course offered by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (which is a world leader in research and postgraduate education in public and global health, and its mission is to improve health and health equity worldwide) through FutureLearn, and in the course you could learn the latest of what we know about COVID-19, presented by international experts. I implore you all to take care of yourselves, and be good to one another.
*As of March 13, 2020, AASLH released a blog post on four steps that can be taken if feeling overwhelmed by COVID-19 preparations: https://aaslh.org/covid-prep-4-steps/
Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/index.html
World Health Organization: https://www.who.int/news-room/q-a-detail/q-a-coronaviruses