Are you ready to reopen?

Updated 26/06/20

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 opening up of the economy following the COVID-19 outbreak is being supported by NHS Test and Trace. You should assist this service by keeping a temporary record of your customers and visitors for 21 days, in a way that is manageable for your business, and assist NHS Test and Trace with requests for that data if needed. This could help contain clusters or outbreaks. Many businesses that take bookings already have systems for recording their customers and visitors – including restaurants, hotels, and hair salons. If you do not already do this, you should do so to help fight the virus. The government will be designing this system in line with data protection legislation, and will set out details shortly. It is also advisable to keep records of working patterns for your staff and volunteers.

Whilst the government still has restrictions on gathering of more than 30 people at a time, by operating your museum safely and with a strong emphasis on social distancing in close collaboration with Government, museums should be able to reopen as planned with visitors up to and over 30. DCMS has advised the museum sector that this restriction does not prevent museums from operating as planned, if they can do it safely.

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

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

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