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What to Do Before Reopening Your Museum or Arts Organization

by Matt Gard

Among nonprofits, museums and arts organizations have perhaps been the hardest hit during this pandemic. From indoor buildings with visitors in close proximity to exhibits that require physical interaction, the very nature of these types of charitable organizations has made operating during COVID-19 nearly impossible. Many have had to reimagine their business models completely, with some offering limited virtual content that is either free or only open to seasonal ticketholders.

Now, as states slowly reopen, museums and arts organizations are eager to get back to their usual programming. The show must go on, but before it does, it’s important to plan for keeping both your staff and guests safe and ensuring experiences are enjoyable. Here are some things to keep in mind as you look to reopen.


Comply With All Cleaning and Safety Practices

This is obvious but cannot be overstated. Make sure you are following all CDC cleaning and safety practices to reduce the spread of the virus. Establish policies related to the use of face masks, hand washing, temperature checks and social distancing and clearly post and communicate those to your staff and visitors. Some museums are finding that the biggest sellers in their gift shops are now face masks with images of museum logos or famous exhibits printed on them.


Manage Visitor Admittance Electronically

Physical tickets to enter a facility are a thing of the past. There are many applications available to allow guests to reserve a spot and check-in via their phone or tablet. Encourage online ticket sales, and if purchases must be made on site, limit or eliminate cash transactions in favor of touchless payment options such as credit cards. Also, provide any visitor guides or maps in a digital format instead of paper.

Some electronic tools for ticket sales also include timers that can help manage visitor flow through your facility. For example, only so many tickets can be issued for specific blocks of time, and guests are notified after they have spent a certain number of hours at the museum. Be sure to check state and local guidelines for the specific capacity restrictions that apply to your organization.


Leverage Outdoor Spaces

In some states, indoor access is still completely off limits, so utilize any and all outdoor spaces. If possible, move exhibits or other programming outdoors. Place a greater emphasis on showcasing gardens or any other outdoor areas that your organization can use. Depending on where you are located, limit or eliminate access to theaters, cafés, high-traffic areas and any particularly tight spaces.


Invest in Touchless Exhibits

It’s no longer feasible to ask visitors to press a button to play an audio recording or encourage children to touch and play with interactive exhibits. Look into mobile options, such as an app or website where guests can listen to background information, or consider providing disposable touch screen pens.


Tell Your Community How You’re Safely Continuing to Serve Them

After you’ve done the work and have built a comprehensive plan for how you’re going to operate and what you’re going to do if someone gets sick, now you must demonstrate that planning for your guests. Instill confidence in your organization and establish trust with your stakeholders by clearly outlining for them the plan you’ve put in place.

Be mindful that reopening communications is a two-way street. Ask your community where you got it right and where you can improve, then adjust accordingly. You need to bring them into a two-way conversation and create an environment of care and empathy. A great way to do so is through surveys, which allow you to find out guests’ hopes, concerns and fears.

Allow time to evaluate the feedback and respond thoughtfully. And remember, the success of your new programming model hinges on the successful adoption of your stakeholders. If all are on board, success is in reach.


For more information about navigating the various business decisions related to reopening, visit our Return to Work Resource Center. We have also developed COVID-19 Recovery Trackers and a Return to Work App that enable you to mitigate the risks involved in manually monitoring the health of employees and guests.

August 27, 2020

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Matt Gard - Partner, Audit - San Ramon CA | Armanino
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