Social Distancing

Updated 11/09/20

Social distancing has become a part of our lives in a big way and has infiltrated all aspects of our society. Museums will need to adapt to the requirements of social distancing for staff and volunteers and to reassure visitors that museums are a safe place to be. This is new to most of us, and guidance is needed to ensure that we can manage traffic flow, understand requirements and get the right signage in place. Social distancing may lead to a drop in the volume of visitors (some estimate 60%), and it is important that we adapt our venues as best as we can to entice visitors back to museums.

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.

Please note that there are new rules for face coverings. Please see the resources section.

Questions to ask yourself

  • Most museums (but not all) have a small degree of flexibility in terms of layout. How can you think about the space you have (both inside and out) to manage the flow of visitors?
  • If your space is small or narrow, will you need physical barriers to separate people – such as Perspex screens?
  • How can you manage queues if you need to restrict the number of people in one space at a time? Is there signage you require? Can you make use of the queueing space to engage with your audience?
  • Will you need screens to shield your workers on reception desks, or will you need to re-position your reception area?
  • Will you need personal protective equipment (PPE) for your staff/volunteers? If so, where will you source this from?
  • Will you need to restrict the number of workers in the building at any one time to keep the risk of contact low?
  • Will your staff and volunteers need training on social distancing? Will they need to enforce the rules, and if so, how strict will this need to be to encourage public confidence?
  • Will you need to stagger working shifts to reduce the amount of people in the museum?
  • Can you introduce a one-way system to help with the flow of visitor, and provide floor markings to help visitors maintain social distancing?
  • Will you need to make changes to your office, store and rest spaces?
  • Where can you get floor or wall signage? Is this cost effective or can it be done in-house?
  • Do you need a specialist consultant to advise you? Can you get a grant to support you with this?
  • Do you need to change your opening hours to help you make the process easier?
  • If you have a café or refreshment area, can you reopen your café as a takeaway facility?
  • Have you considered how to manage traffic flow in toilets and wash station areas? Will you need additional signage, a maximum number allowed into each facility, cones to direct people and hands-free methods of opening doors, etc?
  • What are the practicalities of your café running a takeaway service and what could you include on the menu?
  • For reopening as an eat-in café, how do you plan to lay out your tables, maintaining a two-metre gap, or one meter plus additional control measures (such as PPE)? You may have to reduce the number of covers you can serve.
  • Can you plan for cleaning tables between customers, and perhaps include signage to let diners know this?
  • Think about a reduced menu, with pre-packaged snacks to reduce food preparation requirements and therefore number of staff in the kitchen.


“Stay alert, control the virus, save lives.”



Government advice on social distancing

Guidance for people who work in or run shops, branches, stores or similar environments.

Government guidance for social distancing in a range of workplace scenarios

Workplace advice from Unison

Face coverings and new rules

New Rules on Social Gatherings

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