Are you ready to reopen?

Updated 12/04/21

The key question of this toolkit is whether, or not you are ready to reopen.

Reopening is unlikely to be straightforward for many museums, and may require obtaining specialist advice, additional funds and rethinking how you operate both physically and virtually.

The goal is to get back to business both safely and efficiently. The safety of your staff, volunteers and visitors is your first duty as an organisation. You may have to make hard choices about reopening if you feel that you cannot make the workplace as safe as you need to.

The safety of your collection will also be a concern, and depending on your organisation, you may not have the flexibility to ensure that collections are free from risk of cross-contamination.

The government has issued guidance for businesses required to close: guidance on businesses required to close.

Of particular interest to museums is section 2 on ‘What can be done in businesses that are closed’:

‘… closed premises can open for the purposes of:

enabling access by the site owners or managers, staff or people authorised by them (including volunteers) for maintenance where this is reasonably necessary. This may include exhibit maintenance, animal or plant feeding, or repairs. Other work to ensure readiness to open, such as receiving deliveries of supplies, may also go ahead.’

As a reminder, it is critical that everybody observes the following key behaviours:

  • HANDS – Wash your hands regularly and for 20 seconds.
  • FACE – Wear a face covering in indoor settings where social distancing may be difficult and where you will come into contact with people you do not normally meet.
  • SPACE – Stay 2 metres apart from people you do not live with where possible, or 1 metre with extra precautions in place.

When thinking about beginning to reopen, there is a handy poster with everything you need to be aware of here:

Museums and charities can also apply for ‘rapid lateral flow’ test kits, which will help you to undertake testing for staff and volunteers who cannot work from home. You can register directly on to order free coronavirus rapid lateral flow tests to carry out regular asymptomatic testing of staff and volunteers who cannot work from home.

Questions to ask yourself

  • Is it possible to reopen?
  • Will your museum be required to reopen in a different capacity to how it operated before? For example, will you need to reopen as a vaccination centre?
  • Can you ensure the safety of your workforce?
  • Have you taken advice from your Health and Safety representative (if you have one) or another specialist?
  • Is it safe to open to visitors?
  • Will you damage your reputation if you reopen too early and don’t get everything right?
  • Have you done a thorough risk assessment?
  • Is there flexibility to make adaptations in your museum to support new ways of working?
  • Have you spoken to your team? Do they have concerns about returning to work?
  • Is there anyone available to open the doors? Are your staff or volunteers in the shielding groups?
  • Do you need to investigate alternative ways of operating and working?
  • Would it make more sense to wait until you have more resources at your disposal before reopening?
  • How do you want to physically present your museum on reopening to build public trust and confidence in visiting?
  • Have you considered how your staff, volunteers and visitors can access your site? Will they need to use public or private transport?
  • What communications messages do you need to put out there to build confidence and capture the public mood?
  • Do you have the funds to reopen? Will you have to pay for additional things before you welcome back visitors – such as deep cleaning and personal protective equipment (PPE)?
  • Have you done a cost versus benefits analysis of the possibility of opening?
  • If reopening is not a possibility for you right now, what do you need to put into place to make it possible later on?
  • Can you offer virtual or remote content if physical re-opening is not a possibility right now?
  • Have you considered how you might record visitor information to assist with Track and Trace? Online ticketing is a great way to manage the number of people on your site, as well as to collect this information.

“You probably don’t think about how important they [museums] are in your daily life, but when you really think about it, you remember how important they are.” Canterbury, Public perceptions of – and attitudes to – the purposes of museums in society,

A report prepared by BritainThinks for Museums Association, March 2013,



 Latest information from the Government

Government Heritage Reopening Guidance

Coronavirus Covid-19 NMDC Good Practice Guidelines on the Reopening of Museums after July 4, 2020

AIM Museum Reopening Guidance and Checklist

The Government’s recovery strategy

Statement from Museums Association

Everything you need to know about risk assessments

Risk Assessment template
Appendix 4

Example Risk Assessment
Appendix 7

Covid 19 Site Works Risk Assessment Template (courtesy of giving Ian Reed, SHARE Heritage Engineering Network)
Appendix 12

Covid 19 Inside Premises Risk Assessment Template (courtesy of giving Ian Reed, SHARE Heritage Engineering Network)
Appendix 13

MoP Re-opening Plan Priority Task List (courtesy of giving Ian Reed, SHARE Heritage Engineering Network)
Appendix 14

Coronavirus (COVID-19): advice for employers and employees

Health and Safety advice

Preparing to return to work

A strategy primer for museums

Opening up green spaces

What others are doing to prepare

Visit England Kitemark

‘Know Before you Go’ and ‘We’re Good to Go’

Useful information from Scotland

Information on online ticketing through Art Tickets (a free system offered via Art Fund)

The Audience Agency’s information about online ticketing

Government guidance for the Visitor Economy

Events Industry Forum – working safely in the outdoor events industry
Appendix 17: Events Industry Forum – working safely in the outdoor events industry

Guidance on Events

Event Safety Alliance Guide to Reopening (USA)

NHS COVID-19 early outbreak management (arts, heritage and cultural sites)
Appendix 18

NHS COVID-19 early outbreak management (tourist attractions)
Appendix 22

Office ventilation

New Rules on Social Gatherings

Prime Minister’s Press Conference Statement (09/09/2020)

September 2020 Changes from Government

October 2020 Changes from Government

Tier System Guidance

November 2020 Changes from Government

Information on The Tier System
Appendix 25

Roadmap for reopening

How to get workplace Coronavirus tests

NMDC Good practice guidelines

Guidance for office working

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