The COVID-19 pandemic has forced staff at Nose Creek Valley Museum (NCVM) to “reimagine” what it will offer when it reopens.
While the museum is currently closed, curator Laurie Harvey said the Board of Directors intends NCVM to welcome visitors back in the first week of July. However, she added visiting the museum will be a much different experience than it was before the pandemic.
“We’re almost ready – we’ve been working hard to get Plexiglass shields up and rope off a few areas,” she said. “We had to remove some artifacts from the gallery floor, just because they are such high-touch articles. With some of our artifacts, we normally encourage that, because some people learn better by touching rather than reading or hearing. But they had to be removed for now.”
Once NCVM reopens, Harvey said it will have an initial capacity of only six visitors, who can use a new online booking system to plan their visit in one-hour time-slots. She added the six-person capacity was determined using a spacing formula designed by Alberta Health Services (AHS), which enables indoor businesses to safely maintain social distancing requirements.
“[Six] is probably a pretty harsh number, but that’s what we’ve set for the first bit, and then we’ll revisit that because I imagine we’ll be able to handle a bit more,” Harvey said.
“But we also have a lot of tight corners and things like that. In a museum, you’re not just walking – you’re stopping. People need to take that into consideration...that people linger and read. We don’t want to rush visitors – we want them to enjoy their time.”
NVCM will begin by opening its main gallery and military hall, Harvey said. The annex will remain closed until staff can figure out how to protect the collection of antique cars and tractors in that area of the museum.
“It’s usually not a big deal – just extra dusting – but because they’re artifacts, we can’t use disinfectant on them,” Harvey said.
The museum’s rentable rooms will remain off-limits for now, she said, while bathrooms will be reserved strictly for staff and volunteers.
Other health and safety protocols have also been incorporated. Harvey said arrows are set up on the floor to encourage one-directional movement through the museum, and hand sanitizing stations will be located throughout NCVM. Staff and volunteers, meanwhile, will be mandated to wear masks and gloves.
“If visitors want to wear masks, that’s perfectly fine with us,” Harvey said. “If they don’t, there’s enough space for us to social distance.”
NCVM initially closed March 16. While museums were included in the first phase of the Alberta government’s economic relaunch strategy, Harvey said NCVM’s board ultimately decided to forego opening in May or June to give staff more time to come up with a safe reopening plan.
“It’s just taking a little bit longer than we anticipated,” she said. “Also, we need to just make sure we’re safe for visitors, staff and volunteers.”
NCVM opened in 1988 and is located adjacent to Nose Creek Park. The museum – which focuses on the history of Airdrie and area – houses more than 10,000 artifacts, including wildlife displays, a settler’s cabin, a blacksmith’s shop and a barbershop.
Despite limiting the artifacts it will display upon reopening, Harvey added staff and volunteers are excited to finally welcome the public back to the museum after being closed for more than three months.
“Every time we go in there and finish off another chore and check it off our risk assessment, we’re just like, ‘One step closer!’” she said. “We can’t wait. It’s quiet in the museum without people, and it’s lonely. We have so many stories to tell and we want to tell them. But we have to do it safely.”