Are you ready to reopen?

Updated 24/09/20

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. Test & Trace becomes enforced in law from 18th September, so you will need to collect data in whatever form works best for you. It is also advisable to keep records of working patterns for your staff and volunteers.

The government has now brought out restrictions on social gatherings of more than 6 people. Workplaces, charities and voluntary activity are exempt – so museums can continue to run events (with Covid-secure measures in place). Your museum can have more than 6 volunteers or Trustees in at a time (again assuming Covid-secure guidelines are followed). Museums can also have more than 6 visitors at once, but groups of visitors must not mix.

The government will restrict the opening hours of premises, initially in local lockdown areas, with the option of national action in the future.

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.

Recent new regulations:


  • Businesses selling food or drink (including cafes, bars, pubs and restaurants), social clubs, casinos, bowling alleys, amusement arcades (and other indoor leisure centres or facilities), funfairs, theme parks, and adventure parks and activities, and bingo halls, must be closed between 10pm and 5am. This will include take-aways but delivery services can continue after 10pm. (from 24 September)
  • In licensed premises, food and drink must be ordered from, and served at, a table.
  • Customers must eat and drink at a table in any premises selling food and drink to consume indoors, on site. (from 24 September)
  • Businesses will need to display the official NHS QR code posters so that customers can ‘check-in’ at different premises using this option as an alternative to providing their contact details once the app is rolled out nationally. (from 24 September)
  • Businesses and organisations will face stricter rules to make their premises COVID Secure (from 28 September).
  • A wider range of leisure and entertainment venues, services provided in community centres, and close contact services will be subject to the COVID-19 Secure requirements in law and fines of up to £10,000 for repeated breaches.
  • Employers must not knowingly require or encourage someone who is being required to self-isolate to come to work.
  • Businesses must remind people to wear face coverings where mandated.

Working from home

  • To help contain the virus, office workers who can work effectively from home should do so over the winter. Where an employer, in consultation with their employee, judges an employee can carry out their normal duties from home they should do so. Public sector employees working in essential services should continue to go into work where necessary. Anyone else who cannot work from home should go to their place of work. The risk of transmission can be substantially reduced if COVID-19 secure guidelines are followed closely.  Extra consideration should be given to those people at higher risk.

Hospitality – including cafes and restaurants within museums and galleries

 Regulations will be introduced to mandate the following:

  • Food or drink for consumption on the premises can only be served to customers sitting at a table.
  • 10pm closure for businesses selling food or drink (including cafes, bars, pubs and restaurants) etc.

Face coverings

 Regulations will be introduced to mandate the following:

  • A legal requirement to remind customers of the need to wear face coverings where they are already required unless exempt, for example through prominent display of signs, and/or verbal reminders to customers. Face coverings are already mandatory in museums and galleries, except for those who are exempt.
  • Face coverings will be mandatory for customers and staff in indoor hospitality (except when seated at a table to eat or drink); face coverings will be mandatory for staff in retail settings. This includes restaurants, cafes and shops within museums.

Rule of 6

 A legal requirement to ensure compliance with the rule of six, and ensure appropriate social distancing, through signage, layout, ventilation and entry numbers management.

Events – Weddings

The number of guests allowed at weddings has been downgraded from 30 to 15. If your museum hosts weddings, you may need to reconfigure arrangements to meet this new legal requirement.

A reminder that these measures apply to England – but there may be different rules if you live in an area under local lockdown: and you should check local lockdown rules. If you are in Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland, different rules may apply.

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

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

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