US Museums Begin to Reopen, Carefully

Exterior view of the Milwaukee Art Mumseum in Wisconsin USA
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Buying tickets in advance, social distancing and mandatory masks. These are some of the new rules as museums, science centers and historical sites reopen across the US.

Regional museums, especially children’s museums, have been among the first to open. Larger venues such as the Smithsonian Institution and the National Gallery of Art have not yet announced their plans but two private museums in Washington DC, the International Spy Museum and the Museum of the Bible, opened in June. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York expects to open in August. 

Some outdoor venues such as the US National Arboretum and the National Gallery’s Sculpture Garden opened in June, providing beautiful, quiet places to enjoy nature. The San Diego Zoo in California and the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, Washington reopened in July. These venues also require masks and social distancing and will limit the number of visitors.

Photo of two rows of Grecian columns standing in a grassy field with dark clouds behind them.
The columns are a prominent feature in the National Arboretum, seen here before a summer storm. Photo by Rob Shenk, courtesy of Flickr.

In Philadelphia, The Franklin Institute, a renowned science center, is adding temperature checks to the other requirements. The Barnes Foundation, a private art museum, is selling masks based on famous works of art to help make wearing them more enjoyable! It reopens July 25.

High angle photo of the exterior of the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia.
The Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Photo by Peter Miller, courtesy of Flickr. 

In Chicago, the Shedd Aquarium opened on July 3, the first institution to open in the city. It is home to two penguins who became social media stars during the shutdown. Other Chicago museums have not announced opening dates.

Despite a recent dramatic increase in Covid-19 cases in Southern and Western states such as Florida, Texas, Arizona, and California, many museums that reopened in these states remain open but the escalation of cases is creating great stress and uncertainty. Several museums and cultural centers that hoped to welcome visitors this summer are now postponing or closing again. 

The US continues to reopen in areas that have improved but the situation remains unpredictable. Please check back here for further updates.

FEATURED IMAGE – The Milwaukee Art Museum in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, taken in 2011. The museum is one of many planning to open in July. Photo by Guillaume Capron, courtesy of Flickr.

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