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Coronavirus: Alberta museums taking cautious approach to reopening

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Alberta museums are taking a cautious and calculated approach to reopening their doors to the public. Christa Dao has more on how museums will be complying with the required provincial health orders. – May 6, 2020

Like many other businesses and services, museums have been hit hard during the COVID-19 pandemic, and while they have been given the green light to reopen next Thursday, some museum officials said they won’t be welcoming any guests just yet.

The Military Museum manager Doug Stinson said they’re looking into what a reopening might look like for them but the May 14 target is not in the cards.

READ MORE: Alberta government to cut contract jobs, reduce hours for 14 heritage sites and museums

Stinson said they’re trying to source hand sanitizers and personal protective equipment for staff and volunteers. They’re also looking at disabling their interactive touchscreen displays. As well, plexi-glass shields have been ordered for cashiers in the gift shop.

“We’re struggling a little bit with how many staff we need, what are their duties going to be?” Stinson said.

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“We’re trying to prepare best we can, what protocols must we follow. Do staff and volunteers need to wear masks and gloves at all times, and if so, where do we get them?”

Like himself, Stinson said many of the volunteers at the museum are retired military men and women. Thee average age of volunteers is around 70 years old.

READ MORE: Royal Alberta Museum to reduce hours, find efficiencies following provincial budget

He said there is the concern of putting them at risk and said the museum is looking for guidance on next steps.

“Our concern with the volunteers is that we have a number of senior volunteers on a regular basis that are wonderful, wonderful people… I would not want to unnecessarily put them at risk,” he said.

“We’re looking for some guidance as to what we can and can’t do at the present time. We’re looking at our volunteer list and saying, ‘OK, who is under the age of 60, for example, and is willing to come in and be available.’ We have to be diplomatic about it because a lot of our volunteers are retired military.”

The H
The H. Tim Webber / Global News

A similar cautious approach is also being taken at The Hangar Flight Museum. Executive director Brian Desjardins told Global News they are down 40 per cent in revenue.

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They will be looking at what is financially feasible for them while also hoping to strike a balance between managing the safety protocols in place.

Desjardins said they are working with city of Calgary officials to see how they can reopen, adding a full reopening is not expected next Thursday.

READ MORE: Restored Second World War aircraft returns to Calgary

Scheduled visits is also something they said they’re looking into.

“Because of lost revenue from facility rentals, admissions, events, school bookings, we’re not in a position financially to do a full reopening-relaunch on May 14. We’re coming up with some options. It will be a softer approach,” Desjardins said.

 

Bomber Command Museum in Nanton is hoping the public supports them when they reopen.
Bomber Command Museum in Nanton is hoping the public supports them when they reopen. Bruce Aalhus / Global News

At the Bomber Command Museum in Nanton, officials said they had to cancel their two largest fundraising events. They too are looking at ways to safely reopen, and according to manager Karl Kjarsgaard, they hope the public continues to support them when they do.

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“I think this is a transition period from we’re totally shut down, to restricted ops to maybe going ahead, but we’re going to have to adapt or we’re going to take a heck of a hit in the winter,” Kjarsgaard said.

The museum is fully supported by donations, memberships and other income sources. Kjarsgaard said they still run their Second World War airplanes, and that alone costs a pretty penny.

“You would not believe the fuel bill and how much you have to pay for parts to keep these aircraft running and so this has been a major problem,” he said.

“We do see a light at the end of the tunnel,” he said.