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Museums Exhibit Strain of Dealing with COVID-19


By Dan Hounsell Emergency Preparedness
Historic planes at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C

The COVID-19 pandemic has created a host of challenges for maintenance and engineering managers, including the need for enhanced ventilation and improved housekeeping processes. The coronavirus pandemic has even threatened the existence of many institutional and commercial facilities. Consider the nation’s museums, which are slowly beginning to return to operations.

Two months after the Smithsonian Institution successfully reopened the National Zoo and the National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, four more museums recently welcomed back visitors, reports The Washington Post.The Smithsonian American Art Museum, the National Portrait Gallery, the National Museum of African American History and Culture and the Renwick Gallery are the next sites in the gradual reopening. The museums will require visitors ages 6 and older to wear face coverings and to stay distanced. One-way paths and directions will help control the flow of guests, and hand-sanitizing stations will be plentiful. Visitors who are sick or do not feel well are asked to stay home.

One the East Coast, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, closed since the middle of March, is finally sticking its toe in the water, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer. The museum recently opened to the public for the first time in six months, and 1,658 people went in through the one door now available to visitors.

“It’s fair to say that COVID has had an impact on the museum’s ability to operate,” a museum spokesperson said. “We have had to limit hours, programs, and exhibitions. So there will be a continuing need for other sources of revenues, such as gifts and grants, city and state support, and endowment income.”

The two museums are hardly alone in their struggles to remain open. The American Alliance of Museums recently surveyed more than 750 museums nationwide, according to ABC 10 News. From large to small and in urban and rural communities, what it found was that nearly one-third of them might not survive this pandemic.

“Back in March, I speculated that it might be 25-30 percent of museums that would not make it through an extended financial crisis, and indeed the survey did confirm our worst fears that one in three museums say there is a significant risk for having to close permanently," says Laura Lott, the alliance’s president and CEO.

Dan Hounsell is editor of Facility Maintenance Decisions.

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