July 15, 2021
One of my previous blog posts I posted shared reflections on the museum education since the pandemic reached the United States. Since this pandemic has made an impact on all of us around the world, I thought I would share information from museum associations outside of the United States. It is important for U.S. museum professionals to remember that we can learn from museums outside of the United States for ways to deal with challenges in the field. One of the most recent examples of museums learning from one another is how to continually serve the communities we are a part of while the current coronavirus pandemic has changed how we interact in the world. Each museum association I have been following released resources to help museum professionals engage with their communities while we continue to face the pandemic.
The first one I follow is Museums Association (MA). The MA was established in 1889 which made it the oldest museums association in the world, and it represents 14,000 individual members, 1,800 museums and 300 commercial members. According to their website, a small group of museum professionals founded Museums Association to foster mutual cooperation among curators and institutions. During the pandemic, Museums Association released a statement on extending emergency Covid measures; they stated:
The Museums Association is fighting hard to ensure museums get the support and investment they need to see them through the Covid pandemic. In light of the ongoing nature of the crisis, we are calling on the UK and devolved governments to extend the emergency measures that have been so essential to the sector during this time.
I included a link to their full statement in the list below. The MA released some resources in addition to their statement. They shared some considerations to put in place before welcoming visitors back that came from the National Museum Directors’ Council (NMDC) good practices guidelines; the purpose of the guidelines is to set out the roadmap out of the current lockdown for England and explains how restrictions will be eased over time. There are nine considerations that museums need to remember; some of the considerations are Government has clearly announced that museums and galleries can reopen; Workforce safety and wellbeing can be supported; Public safety can be assured; and Museums are confident that visitors will return, and they can provide services in keeping with their public purpose. When there are updates needed to be made to the guidelines, they made notes of where on the guidelines it was changed and what was updated. The full guidelines document is available on the NMDC website.
The International Council of Museums (ICOM), according to their website, is an international organization of museums and museum professionals which is committed to the research, conservation, continuation, and communication to society of the world’s natural and cultural heritage, present and future, tangible, and intangible. ICOM is the only global organization in the museum field. They also released a few resources on the pandemic and re-opening the museum. One of the resources they released was “Museums and end of lockdown: Ensuring the safety of the public and staff”, and in this page the basic measures are organized into seven categories including preparing for the arrival of the public, public access—adapting the flow of visitors, and in the office. I included a few of the measures from their page here:
PREPARING FOR THE ARRIVAL OF THE PUBLIC
- Define a maximum number of visitors per exhibition room and inform the public (it is recommended to set a maximum number of people per square meters to allow a safety distance of 1.5 m between each visitor)
- Consider a gradual reopening of exhibitions
- As far as possible, set up a booking system (online, by phone and/or by e-mail). Set up an online ticketing system. Online tickets can be scanned by visitors themselves at the entrance to the museum
PUBLIC ACCESS – ADAPTING THE FLOW OF VISITORS
- Avoid or manage lines at entrances and counters
- Consider ground markings for lines to ensure that the recommended distance of 1.5 m is maintained
- Close the cloakrooms requiring the presence of staff (lockers can remain available if they are disinfected regularly between uses) to avoid unnecessary handling and contact
IN THE OFFICE
- Consider sustainable adaptation of emergency plans
- Extend work loans to minimize movement, handling, and transportation
- Common equipment used by several staff members will need to be disinfected regularly. In the absence of disinfection standards, this equipment shall not be used
They also pointed out that if museums are not in the position to respond to the measures, then the museums should extend their temporary closings.
Another museum organization I follow is Museums Galleries Scotland. I first became aware of them when I was asked to be a speaker in their webinar about the future of museum education last year. Museums Galleries Scotland, according to their website, is the National Development Body for the Scottish museums sector. They support 419 museums and galleries, through strategic investment, advice, advocacy, skills development, et. cetera. I saw on their website they released a page of resources titled “Coronavirus Guidance for Museums” which is divided into three categories: Operational Guidance, Reopening Guidance, and Remote Working and Online Engagement. One of their pages included “Business continuity during COVID-19” which provide information for museums currently dealing with the effects of COVID-19 or the Coronavirus outbreak; some of information focused on financial support, business continuity advice, and best practice to follow.
The above examples I shared is only a sample of what museum associations outside of the United States are distributing on their websites. If there are any resources that you do not see here, please share in the comments below.
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Reflections on Museum Education Since COVID Arrived in the United States Part 1
MA Reopening Museums Good Practice Guidelines
MA Learning and Engagement Manifesto
NMDC Good Practice Guidelines for Reopening Museums
International Council of Museums
ICOM Museums and the End of Lockdown
ICOM How to Reach your Public Remotely
ICOM Smart Museums to Face the Crisis