Are you ready to reopen?

Updated 06/08/21

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.

Returning to work safely

For museums that have been closed for a significant period of time, plans will need to be shaped to take into account new ways of working. ALL businesses need to remember that they have a legal duty to conduct a COVID risk assessment before re-opening. This highlights a variety of other risks, in addition to those associated with COVID-19, which may be applicable to your museum. A good risk assessment will help you begin your preparations to ensure that your staff/volunteers and visitors can reopen safely. You can find information on how to do your risk assessment in the resources section at the end of this section.

You may need to write new policies, create new ways of working and develop measures within your own museum that make staff, volunteers and visitors feel safe.

Museums and charities can apply for ‘rapid lateral flow’ test kits, which will help you to undertake testing for staff and volunteers. You can register directly on to order free coronavirus rapid lateral flow tests to carry out regular asymptomatic testing of staff and volunteers.

 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?
  • 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 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? Do you need to recruit new team members?
  • 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 or collections care costs?
  • 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 NHS 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. QR codes can also be downloaded if you have access to internet and phone signals on your site.
  • Have you checked your equipment? Equipment that has been stored and unused for long periods of time may have deteriorated, so you might need to check this to ensure it is fit for purpose.
  • Do you have enough people to run your operation? If you use agency staff or casual workers, circumstances may have changed. Make sure you allow plenty of time to find the people you need and to train them up if necessary.
  • People who have been inactive may have seen a decline in their fitness levels, increasing the risk of injury or accident. Where physical fitness is necessary for a role, for example by housekeeping staff, it is worth considering how workers can be supported to regain their pre-pandemic fitness levels.
  • Returning to the workplace may be difficult for some employees making them more susceptible to workplace stress. Situations such as mixing with others and dealing with members of the public may be particularly challenging. Talking to your staff/volunteers is an important step to help manage concerns, if you need help in planning how to do this we have some helpful advice here:
  • Some museums are struggling with staffing as large numbers have to self-isolate due to a ping from the track and trace app. Have you thought about your contingency plans if you don’t have enough people to open the museum? How will you get the message out to your visitors if that happens?
  • Have you considered the fact that some team members may have faced difficult times during the pandemic and may need additional support? Support for bereavement and mental health issues can be found here:
  • Have you considered how staff who have worked through the pandemic may interact with those who have been furloughed? Will you need to set aside time for additional training and upskilling, or support for those who may have volunteered or worked during and are now facing burnout?


“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

Guidance and resources for local authority museums

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

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

Museums reopening as vaccination centres

Information on The Tier System

Appendix 25

How to get workplace Coronavirus tests

NMDC Good practice guidelines

Guidance for office working

Re-opening outdoor hospitality safely

Covid-19 Secure notice

Business Events Advice

 EMBED reopening recommendations guidelines

 New guidance for Weddings and Civil Partnerships

Covid-19 testing guidance for employers

Government Guidance Coronavirus: how to stay safe and help prevent the spread

Working safely during Covid-19

Guidance on working safely during Covid-19 for events and attractions

MDUK Coronavirus bulletin 2021.07.19 (containing lots of useful links for reopening)

Appendix 30

NMDC Good Practice Guidelines for reopening

New Posters for reminding visitors of Covid restrictions

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