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.
Once lock down restrictions are lifted and Tier systems are in place, your museum may want to reopen.
Third Lock Down Period
Recently, the Prime Minister has announced a national lockdown for England, with strict new measures coming into force with immediate effect.
- You must stay at home, except for a permitted reason. This includes activities such as essential shopping, education and childcare, work which cannot be done from home, medical needs, exercise, and communal worship.
- If you do leave home for a permitted reason, you should stay local in the village, town or part of the city where you live.
- You must not meet socially with family or friends, unless they are part of your household or support bubble.
- You can leave your home to exercise once a day. You can exercise in a public outdoor place with members of your household or support bubble or, when you are on your own, with one person from another household.
- Primary, secondary and special schools will remain open for vulnerable children and children of critical workers. Remote working will take place for all other children until February half term. End-of-year exams will not take place this summer.
- Early years settings such as childminders and nurseries can stay open – we are awaiting further guidance on this.
- Higher Education provision will remain online until mid-February for all courses, except those for future critical workers such as medicine and dentistry.
- Pubs, restaurants, and non-essential shops and businesses must close, although hospitality venues can provide delivery and takeaway services – but not takeaway alcohol.
- People who are clinically extremely vulnerable should only go out for medical appointments, exercise or if it is essential. They should not attend work.
You can read more about the new restrictions on the gov.uk website.
Government Tier System
Once lock down restrictions are lifted, England will again move into a tiered system.
To check which tier your site is in, please check here for the most up to date information: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/full-list-of-local-restriction-tiers-by-area
Tier 1: Medium alert
- you must not socialise in groups larger than 6 people, indoors or outdoors, other than where a legal exemption applies. This is called the ‘rule of 6’;
- businesses and venues can remain open, in a COVID secure manner, other than those which remain closed by law, such as nightclubs;
- hospitality businesses selling food or drink for consumption on their premises are required to:
- provide table service only, for premises that serve alcohol
- close between 11pm and 5am (hospitality venues in airports, ports, on transport services and in motorway service areas are exempt)
- stop taking orders after 10pm
- hospitality businesses and venues selling food and drink for consumption off the premises can continue to do so after 10pm as long as this is through delivery service, click-and-collect or drive-through
- early closure (11pm) applies to casinos, cinemas, theatres, concert halls, museums, bowling alleys, amusement arcades, funfairs, theme parks, adventure parks and activities and bingo halls. Cinemas, theatres and concert halls can stay open beyond 11pm in order to conclude performances that start before 10pm
- public attendance at outdoor and indoor events (performances and shows) is permitted, limited to whichever is lower: 50% capacity, or either 4,000 people outdoors or 1,000 people indoors;
- public attendance at spectator sport and business events can resume inside and outside, subject to social contact rules and limited to whichever is lower: 50% capacity, or either 4,000 people outdoors or 1,000 people indoors;
- places of worship remain open, but you must not attend or socialise in groups of more than 6 people while there, unless a legal exemption applies;
- weddings and funerals can go ahead with restrictions on numbers of attendees – 15 people can attend wedding ceremonies and receptions, 30 people can attend funeral ceremonies, and 15 people can attend linked commemorative events;
- organised outdoor sport, physical activity and exercise classes can continue;
- organised indoor sport, physical activity and exercise classes can continue to take place, if the rule of 6 is followed. There are exceptions for indoor disability sport, sport for educational purposes, and supervised sport and physical activity for under-18s, which can take place with larger groups mixing;
- if you live in a tier 1 area and travel to an area in a higher tier you should follow the rules for that area while you are there. Avoid travel to or overnight stays in tier 3 areas other than where necessary, such as for work, education, youth services, to receive medical treatment, or because of caring responsibilities. You can travel through a tier 3 area as part of a longer journey;
- for international travel see the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office travel advice for your destination and the travel corridors lis.
Tier 2: High Alert Restrictions
- you must not socialise with anyone you do not live with or who is not in your support bubble in any indoor setting, whether at home or in a public place;
- you must not socialise in a group of more than 6 people outside, including in a garden or a public space – this is called the ‘rule of 6’;
- businesses and venues can continue to operate, in a COVID-Secure manner, other than those which remain closed by law, such as nightclubs;
- pubs and bars must close, unless operating as restaurants. Hospitality venues can only serve alcohol with substantial meals;
- hospitality businesses selling food or drink for consumption on their premises are required to: provide table service only, in premises which sell alcohol;
- close between 11pm and 5am (hospitality venues in airports, ports, transport services and motorway service areas are exempt);
- hospitality businesses and venues selling food and drink for consumption off the premises can continue to do so after 10pm as long as this is through delivery service, click-and-collect or drive-through;
- early closure (11pm) applies to casinos, cinemas, theatres, museums, bowling alleys, amusement arcades, funfairs, theme parks, adventure parks and activities, and bingo halls. Cinemas, theatres and concert halls can stay open beyond 11pm in order to conclude performances that start before 10pm;
- public attendance at outdoor and indoor events (performances and shows) is permitted, limited to whichever is lower: 50% capacity, or either 2,000 people outdoors or 1,000 people indoors;
- public attendance at spectator sport and business events can resume inside and outside, subject to social contact rules and limited to whichever is lower: 50% capacity, or either 2,000 people outdoors or 1,000 people indoors;
- weddings and funerals can go ahead with restrictions on numbers of attendees – 15 people can attend wedding ceremonies and receptions, 30 people can attend funeral ceremonies, and 15 people can attend linked commemorative events such as wakes or stone settings;
- you can continue to travel to venues or amenities which are open, but should aim to reduce the number of journeys you make where possible;
- if you live in a tier 2 area, you must continue to follow tier 2 rules when you travel to a tier 1 area. Avoid travel to or overnight stays in tier 3 areas other than where necessary, such as for work, education, youth services, to receive medical treatment, or because of caring responsibilities. You can travel through a tier 3 area as a part of a longer journey.
Tier 3: Very High Restrictions
- you must not meet socially indoors or in most outdoor places with anybody you do not live with, or who is not in your support bubble, this includes in any private garden or at most outdoor venues;
- you must not socialise in a group of more than 6 in some other outdoor public spaces, including parks, beaches, countryside accessible to the public, a public garden, grounds of a heritage site or castle, or a sports facility – this is called the ‘rule of 6’;
- hospitality settings, such as bars (including shisha venues), pubs, cafes and restaurants are closed – they are permitted to continue sales by takeaway, click-and-collect, drive-through or delivery services;
- indoor entertainment and tourist venues must close. This includes:
- laser quests and escape rooms
- cinemas, theatres and concert halls
- snooker halls
- indoor attractions at mostly outdoor entertainment venues must also close (indoor shops, through-ways and public toilets at such attractions can remain open). This includes indoor attractions within zoos, safari parks, and wildlife reserves, aquariums, visitor attractions at farms, and other animal attractions, model villages, museums, galleries and sculpture parks.
- botanical gardens, biomes or greenhouses
- theme parks, circuses, fairgrounds and funfairs
- visitor attractions at film studios, heritage sites such as castles and stately homes
- landmarks including observation decks and viewing platforms
- there should be no public attendance at spectator sport or indoor performances and large business events should not be taking place. Elite sport events may continue to take place without spectators;
- large outdoor events (performances and shows) should not take place, with the exception of drive-in events;
- weddingsand funerals can go ahead with restrictions on the number of attendees – 15 people can attend wedding ceremonies, wedding receptions are not allowed, 30 people can attend funeral ceremonies, 15 people can attend linked commemorative events;
- you can continue to travel to venues or amenities which are open, but should aim to reduce the number of journeys you make where possible;
- avoid travelling to other parts of the UK, including for overnight stays other than where necessary, such as for work, education, youth services, to receive medical treatment, or because of caring responsibilities. You can travel through other areas as part of a longer journey.
The guidance states that businesses and venues must ensure people do not meet in their premises with people from outside of their household or support bubble. Businesses and venues that fail to comply with these restrictions may face fines of up to £10,000, prosecution, or in some cases closure.
Indoor guided tours can go ahead in tier 1 provided it is possible to ensure that groups of more than six (or larger if they are from one household/support bubble) do not mingle with each other. Indoor guided tours can go ahead in tier 2 if it is possible to ensure that groups if single households/support bubbles do not mingle on a guided tour. In tier 3 indoor attractions are closed.
In tiers 1, 2 and 3, outdoor guided tours can go ahead at historic parks, garden attractions or landscapes, provided it is possible to ensure that groups of more than six (or larger if they are from one household/support bubble) do not mingle with each other. This is in line with general visiting restrictions for such venues, where the rule of 6 applies. Visitors must stay in their own group at all times throughout the tour. Businesses must undertake risk assessments and put any necessary mitigations in place.
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.
Questions to ask yourself
- Is it possible to reopen?
- 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 https://www.nationalmuseums.org.uk/media/nmdc_museums_guidelines_v.1.1_25_june_2020.pdf
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
Example Risk Assessment
Covid 19 Site Works Risk Assessment Template (courtesy of giving Ian Reed, SHARE Heritage Engineering Network)
Covid 19 Inside Premises Risk Assessment Template (courtesy of giving Ian Reed, SHARE Heritage Engineering Network)
MoP Re-opening Plan Priority Task List (courtesy of giving Ian Reed, SHARE Heritage Engineering Network)
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
Event Safety Alliance Guide to Reopening (USA)
NHS COVID-19 early outbreak management (arts, heritage and cultural sites)
NHS COVID-19 early outbreak management (tourist attractions)
New Rules on Social Gatherings
Prime Minister’s Press Conference Statement (09/09/2020)
September 2020 Changes from Government
October 2020 Changes from Government
November 2020 Changes from Government