National Museum Directors’ Council releases good practice reopening guidelines

The British Museum

The National Museum Directors’ Council has released good practice guidelines to support UK museums and galleries as they begin to reopen from July 4.

This guidance was developed with the support of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport as well as sector representatives, including the Museums Association and Arts Council England. The NMDC also consulted with Public Health England and the Health and Safety Executive.

The guidelines will be updated to reflect the latest Government position and any new information that should be considered as museums learn from experience.

Considerations before a museum can reopen

There are nine considerations that must be in place before a museum can reopen.

  1. Government has clearly announced that museums and galleries can reopen
  2. Security of workers, public and sites can be sufficiently maintained in light of any operational changes to account for Covid-19
  3. Workforce safety and wellbeing can be supported
  4. Public safety can be assured
  5. Buildings and processes can be adapted to support reopening
  6. The business case supports reopening
  7. Museums are confident that visitors will return, and they can provide services in keeping with their public purpose
  8. Transport systems can support museum visitors, workers travel and supply chains while noting adaptations to normal practice may be required based on available guidance at the time of reopening
  9. Local context, including location, museum offer, constitution and business model permit.

A COVID-19 risk assessement

The guidelines also state that museums must keep a temporary record of staff shift patterns and visitors for 21 days to assist the NHS Test and Trace programme if needed.

All employers should carry out a COVID-19 risk assessment to protect workers. Increased sanitation and cleaning should take place to protect staff and visitors.

Social distancing is necessary

Where possible, museums should comply with social distancing guidelines set out by the Government. This may result in changes to exits and entrances or the layout of galleries. New practices for lifts may be needed.

Perspex screens may be useful to shield staff  members from frequent contact with the public, such as at a ticket booth.

New training should take place for staff members. This is especially important for Front of House workers who will have to manage visitors and ensure they comply with the new rules. These rules should be clearly communicated to the public.

PPE not necessary

Under this guidance, museum workers do not have to wear PPE since “Covid-19 is a different type of risk to the risks you normally face in a workplace, and needs to be managed through social distancing, hygiene and fixed teams or partnering, not through the use of PPE.”

However, a face covering may be useful in some cases, and employers should support any staff member who chooses to wear one.

Those areas of a museum that have unavoidably high-levels of personal contact, such as tour guides, may not return straight away.

Museums must be prepared to “close down quickly and efficiently” if lockdown is announced again.

Attractions in England, including museums and theme parks, were told they could reopen from July 4 earlier this week.

In other news, the Museum of London’s plans for its new site in West Smithfield have been approved.

Image: British Museum