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 The Detroit Institute of Arts is one of the museums in the Cultural Center that is welcoming back visitors after shutting down during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in metro Detroit.

The Detroit Institute of Arts is one of the museums in the Cultural Center that is welcoming back visitors after shutting down during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in metro Detroit.

Photo provided by the Detroit Institute of Arts

Museums reopen with new safety protocols due to pandemic

By: K. Michelle Moran | C&G Newspapers | Published July 7, 2020

 Alongside popular exhibitions, new safety protocols are now in place at institutions like the Detroit Historical Museum, which is reopening to visitors after a four-month COVID-19 shutdown.

Alongside popular exhibitions, new safety protocols are now in place at institutions like the Detroit Historical Museum, which is reopening to visitors after a four-month COVID-19 shutdown.

Photo provided by the Detroit Historical Museum

DETROIT — Museums and other cultural institutions in Detroit are starting to reopen, but with COVID-19 still very much a concern, these facilities are taking steps to keep guests and staff safe.

After closing to the public in March, institutions in the Detroit Cultural Center announced that they will be reopening their doors July 10. These include the Carr Center, Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, Detroit Historical Museum, Detroit Institute of Arts, Hellenic Museum of Michigan, Michigan Science Center and the Scarab Club.

Some other Cultural Center institutions reopened earlier: The International Institute of Metropolitan Detroit reopened June 15 and the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit reopened July 2. The main branch of the Detroit Public Library isn’t slated to open until Sept. 8.

To prepare for the reopening, these institutions have been collectively working since late April, under the guidance of Midtown Detroit Inc., with the National Sanitation Foundation International on a plan that incorporates additional cleaning and sanitizing, new wayfinding and social distancing policies, new entry and exit procedures, and more.

Guests ages 3 and older will be required to wear a mask inside all of these institutions, and the number of patrons will be limited at any given time. The NSF created a reopening handbook that takes into consideration recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Department of Health and Human Services, and World Health Organization, among others.

“We know that the long-term health and safety of our cultural institutions is currently tied to ensuring the health and safety of all visitors and staff,” said Susan Mosey, executive director of Midtown Detroit Inc., in a press release. “We engaged NSF to help us create a safety culture and protocols for managing the risks associated with a communicable disease while helping institutions deliver their core missions.”

In the case of some institutions, including the DIA, the run of some special exhibitions have been extended, said Christine Kloostra, the DIA’s executive director of marketing and communications. These include “Jean-Antoine Houdon’s Portraits of Americans in the Age of Enlightenment” on loan from the Louvre in Paris and “Bruegel’s ‘The Wedding Dance’ Revealed.”

The museums want to engage and enlighten audiences while also protecting everyone’s health.

“We look forward to welcoming our members and the public back to the district,” Neil Barclay, president and CEO of the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, said in a press release. “Given the effect that COVID-19 has had on the African American community, The Wright enthusiastically joined with my colleagues to construct a comprehensive plan that would keep our stakeholders and patrons feeling comfortable and safe as they reentered our facilities. Even though the world looks very different from when we shut our doors in March, the roles our institutions play in Detroit and the larger community have not changed and are needed now more than ever. Whether it is offering respite, encouraging creativity or being a place to gather for shared experiences, the Cultural Center of Detroit is committed to putting our patrons’ health and safety first.”

Visitors will find new protocols and policies in place at all of the institutions. At the DIA, for example, the coat check and lockers aren’t available, so visitors are allowed to bring a small bag with them; purses are allowed, as well, Kloostra said. In addition, the café and Kresge Court — which served food and beverages — are closed. Group tours, field trips and in-museum programming are on hold for now.

The DIA will only be open to its members and residents of Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties July 10-12, but it will reopen to the general public after that. Initially, Kloostra said, admission for everyone will be free at the DIA.

“At some point in August, we will start charging admission (again),” Kloostra said. General admission will remain free for members and residents of Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties.

Of the institutions that charge admission or have a gift shop, visitors should check in advance to see what types of payments will be accepted. Kloostra said the DIA will be using a touchless payment system, meaning that only credit or debit cards or similar payment systems will be accepted, and not cash.

“Cash and checks are still accepted at the Detroit Historical Museum,” Detroit Historical Museum Chief Development and Communications Officer Rebecca Saminen Witt said by email.  “But we have advanced ticketing and an online store for those who prefer a completely touchless experience.”

Visitors should plan on purchasing timed tickets to the DIA, the Wright Museum and some other institutions, as all of them are trying to stagger visitors.

“The support and collaboration of our partners throughout the cultural district has made manageable the difficult task of reimagining the museum experience for our visitors,” said Elana Rugh, president and CEO of the Detroit Historical Society, in a prepared statement. “We are so grateful for the support from Midtown Detroit Inc. and NSF. Because of their partnership, we are confident that we will be able to provide visitors with an exceptional experience that is both safe and engaging. Our entire staff is looking forward to welcoming everyone back to our museums.”

The Motown Museum, located not far from the Cultural Center at 2648 W. Grand Blvd. in Detroit, announced that it will be reopening July 15, after closing its doors to visitors March 13. Advance ticket purchases are strongly recommended, and visitors must wear a mask inside the museum. All guests will be subject to a brief health screening questionnaire and a touchless temperature check outside the museum before they are allowed to enter.

“This has been a challenging few months for all of us, but the talent of our team and the resilience and resolve of our organization to make this reopening date happen is truly special,” Motown Museum Chair and CEO Robin Terry said in a prepared statement. “We have worked extremely hard to make sure this time was used effectively and that, when we were able to safely reopen, we could allow museum visitors to experience that one-of-a-kind Motown magic in this new environment where safety is our top priority.”

The cultural institutions are eager to welcome familiar faces and newcomers alike, and they say they can offer visitors an experience that’s cool on multiple levels.

“We’re excited to have our patrons back,” Kloostra said. “In the heat of the summer, I think people will (enjoy) being in an air-conditioned museum.”

Like many businesses, nonprofits have taken a substantial financial hit during the pandemic, so memberships or donations of any amount are welcome.

“Certainly, we would encourage people to not only support the DIA, but all of our neighboring cultural institutions,” Kloostra said.

Most of the institutions have new, limited hours because of the pandemic. For tickets or more information, visit each institution’s website.