After our complete closure on March 16, 2020 due to COVID-19, our museum staff was busier than ever preparing to navigate these uncharted times. Our focus was to maintain a connection with the public and our members. We sent weekly Membership Monday emails; created a new space online and on social media with story time, art activities, curatorial walk throughs; provided holiday meals for purchase from our café each month; and hosted Zoom talks with artists from our collection. We raised funds with a matching campaign in the early summer, continued to process memberships and send renewals, and kept in touch with non-email members with personalized postcards!
Once we began to realize that it may be a while before the museum could safely reopen, we began to meet weekly with a task force of staff from all departments in the museum to discuss what reopening would look like and when. In our meetings, we discussed when we could open pending curatorial timetable to prepare the exhibitions that were left in the middle of being set up in March!
The major special exhibition was a hands-on video game exhibition, which needed to be re-thought and reinstalled to meet new guidelines. This set the pace for when our reopening would take place: August 13. Consideration was also given to which days we would be open during the week, how ticketing would look, capacity, contact tracing, safety and health requirements and creating a welcoming environment despite all of the constraints. The task force compiled Currier COVID guidelines which remain fluid as the situation evolves. These guidelines helped frame the work needed for opening day.
Here is a brief snapshot of our new work week and ticket availability.
Thursday: open 10 am to 8 pm
Friday, Saturday, and Sunday: open 10 am to 5 pm
Closed Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.
The hours of 10 am to 11 am will be reserved for members and seniors.
We have implemented timed ticketing to limit crowds and reduce contact. We recommend reserving and buying your tickets online in advance, as walk up availability will be limited. We suggest approximately two hours in the galleries during your visit, but encourage you to stop in the shop and to visit the Winter Garden Café for a late breakfast, lunch, a snack and a glass of wine, or dinner and drinks on Thursday nights. Timed tickets will be available two weeks in advance.
Mapping out our timed tickets for general admission was building a structure from the ground up. We had used timed tickets for our Frank Lloyd Wright home tours, but daily admission tickets went beyond that framework to new heights. So far, our hourly admissions, with extra overflow that allows for daily walk-ups, has proven to fit our needs. Consistency and clarity with social media messaging, emails, website and webform confirmations about our safety protocols, expectation of timed tickets to be purchased in advance, and length of stay all have been adhered to and well received by most all our visitors and staff.
Guest Services has played an important role in greeting unsure visitors that have ventured back into the world. Training of new Point of Sale procedures, COVID protocols, and de-escalation scenarios were important to prepare our frontline staff for all situations that were ahead. Zoom conferences, one-on-one in person training and role playing for various transactions helped ease the transition to our new way of processing sales and navigating greeting customers warmly without our smiles on display!
As we continue to navigate our new “normal”, most of our visitors are very happy to be back in the galleries and welcome our safety measures. After being open a full month now, we continue task force meetings, adjust protocols where needed, and reaffirm timed ticketing messaging to the public on all platforms. For the days ahead, we remain fluid to continue to keep our doors open the safest way we can!
Co-Author: Carey Calhoon
Carey Cahoon is the Database Administrator and Strategist at the Currier Museum of Art, overseeing and providing staff support for Altru. In her “real life,” Carey is an actress and theatre maker in New Hampshire. She works primarily with the company she co-founded 13 seasons ago. Follow her on Twitter at @littlecw.