Reopening museums and galleries: good practice guidelines

24.06.2020
Considerations to put in place before welcoming visitors back
The National Museum Directors’ Council (NMDC) has published good practice guidelines for museums and galleries in England as the sector begins to reopen from 4 July. 

The guidance has been developed with support from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and a working group made up of sector representatives, including the Museums Association (MA). The document is intended to enhance, not supplant, existing regulations.

The guidance will be hosted on the NMDC website and is expected to be updated over time. It sets out nine considerations that will need to be in place before museums can reopen. These are: 

  • Government has clearly announced that museums and galleries can reopen
  • Security of workers, public and sites can be sufficiently maintained in light of any operational changes to account for Covid-19
  • Workforce safety and wellbeing can be supported
  • Public safety can be assured
  • Buildings and processes can be adapted to support reopening
  • The business case supports reopening
  • Museums are confident that visitors will return, and they can provide services in keeping with their public purpose
  • Transport systems can support museum visitors, workers travel and supply chains while noting adaptations to normal practice may be required based on available guidance at the time of reopening
  • Local context, including location, museum offer, constitution and business model permit.  

The document sets out the kind of measures museums and galleries will need to take in order to safely reopen. 

It states that museums must assist the NHS Test and Trace programme by keeping a temporary record of staff shift patterns, customers and visitors for 21 days and assist NHS Test and Trace with requests for data if needed.

Social distancing restrictions mean that museums may have to reduce visitor numbers, change practice around confined spaces such as lifts and galleries, cafes, entrances and exits, and introduce new training requirements for the workforce. The guidance states that museums must make a reasonable effort to comply with the social distancing guidelines set out by the government - 2m or 1m with risk mitigation (where 2m is not viable) are acceptable. 

The guidance does not advise that museum workers should use additional personal protective equipment (PPE) beyond what they usually wear. It states: “Covid-19 is a different type of risk to the risks you normally face in a workplace, and needs to be managed through social distancing, hygiene and fixed teams or partnering, not through the use of PPE.” 

However, the document does recognise that a simple, non-surgical face covering may be useful in some circumstances, such as in enclosed spaces where social distancing isn’t possible, and says employers should support workers in using face coverings should they choose to wear one.  

The guidance states that customer facilities such as toilets will need new cleaning regimes to ensure they are kept clean and that social distancing is achieved as much as possible by, for example, limiting the number of people entering toilet facilities at one time. There will also be increased cleaning requirements throughout front and back of house. 

According to the guidance, some areas of museum work with unavoidable high levels of personal contact, such as tour guides, costumed interpreters and art handlers, are not likely to return immediately, or may be subject to new procedures.

The document states that museums need to ensure clear communication with the public about what the rules are and what steps are being taken by the museum. School visits will be permitted to resume but will be subject to risk assessments. 

The guidance also emphasises that museums will need to be prepared to “close down quickly and efficiently” if another period of lockdown is announced. 

The guidance says museums should be confident that their visitors will return and that they can fulfil their public purpose before reopening. It advises museums to discuss with workers and trustees how the museum will deliver its objectives; consider how they continue to offer sanctuary to vulnerable people or groups; and consider how any new measures support people with protected characteristics to ensure there are no unfair impacts.  

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