The Tri-Cities Historical Museum opened earlier this week after being closed since March 17 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Grand Haven Museum Director Julie Bunke said those who visit the Washington Avenue facilities this summer will notice some differences. For example, exhibits that previously could be entered and explored are now blocked.
“There are so many surfaces that could potentially collect any kind of virus in these rooms,” Bunke said. “This is one of the most important changes we have made. We have moved the signage outside the rooms.
A maximum of 30 people can visit the museum at a time, and anyone inside must wear a face mask. Museum staff will do a deep clean every hour, every hour, Bunke said.
The museum’s opening hours are limited from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday to Friday and from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday. Typically, the museum would be open on Sundays and Mondays during the summer.
“We have decided to keep our hours off season in the summer because we fear staff fatigue, especially with cleaning every hour,” Bunke said.
In past summers, the museum sometimes attracted 500 or more visitors each day. On Tuesday, the museum opened its doors and welcomed 30 visitors in total.
“We don’t know if this is a statement that few people are outside or if they are not yet ready to enter a public building,” Bunke said.
The West Michigan Pike Museum exhibit opened earlier this year and was scheduled to run through June. However, since the museum has been closed in recent months, this exhibition has been extended until September. In October, a new exhibit will showcase the history of Grand Haven’s Highland Park neighborhood.
As in-house exhibits continue to be available, museum staff have made the difficult decision to cancel all large group programming until the end of 2020. This includes the museum’s ice cream social activities.
“These are typically 750 people, and we’re just not ready to handle such a crowd with the ongoing pandemic,” Bunke said. “We do a lot of programs online through social media. “
Bunke said the opening of the Grand Haven museum coincides with several other museum openings in western Michigan.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer lifted the closure of libraries and museums in early June, but it took a month to make all the preparations for the opening, Bunke said.
“We weren’t prepared because the date kept getting pushed back, so we had to rush to stock up,” she said. “We have a lot of sneeze guards, and the plexiglass to make them was out of stock. We couldn’t even get Lysol disinfectant wipes until two weeks ago. We also had to train our staff and volunteers.
Bunke said the museum has three staff stationed at its reception. The number of people entering is counted to ensure that they do not exceed the limit of 30 people. A second manages the cash register of the gift shop and the third is dedicated to cleaning.
Each deep cleaning cycle takes approximately 30 minutes.
“So basically as soon as they’re done they have a break and start over,” Bunke said.