Museums to Reopen with New Procedures in Place

Sebastian Belfanti, director of the West End Museum, said Friday he expected the museum would reopen in the next week or two, but the exact timing hinges on when they can get enough hand sanitizer to ensure the safety of guests and staff.

“I put together a comprehensive reopening plan in May, which was approved by the museum’s board,” Belfanti said, “and I have since changed it to adjust to the state’s safety standards.”

Upon reopening, the museum at 150 Lomasney Way will be limited to 10 occupants (nine visitors and one staff member) at a time in each of its two, interconnected rooms, while public restrooms will remain closed for the time being. New signage and tape markings on the floor will be visible to notify museum-goers of the changes, and visitors will no longer be able to roam the premises as freely as they could before in keeping with social-distancing guidelines. The museum will also be sanitized more frequently and thoroughly than it was before it closed in March.

Until the pandemic struck, two staff members were on hand to greet guests and give museum tours, but Belfanti alone will be handling their duties for the first two weeks after reopening.

“They’re older, and we want to make sure conditions are safe, and that everyone is following  social-distancing guidelines and wearing masks,” Belfanti said. “But they’re very excited to get back to the museum.”

The Gibson House Museum and the Nichols House Museum, located at 137 Beacon St. and 55 Mt. Vernon St., respectively, are both members of the Boston House Museum Alliance, so Michelle Coughlin, museum administrator of the Gibson House Museum, said their reopenings are both slated for September in an effort to complement each other.

“We’re two independent house museums and we’re nearby each other, so It makes sense to plan reopening together, and to cross-promote them,” Coughlin said.

Upon its September reopening, the Gibson House Museum will begin offering tours on Saturdays and Sundays at 1, 2 and 3 p.m. Tickets must be reserved and purchased in advance, and tours will be limited to six individuals who all must be part of the same household or  group of friends, or willing to be together. (The museum offered tours at 1, 2 and 3 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday to groups of up to 12 non-related individuals before the pandemic struck.) All guests and staff will be required to wear face coverings, as well as to adhere to a new tour path to ensure social distancing. The museum will also be thoroughly sanitized between tours.

“Everyone will get all the information  ahead of time,” Coughlin said. “A lot of research is going into the new protocols that will be put in place.”

In the interim, the Gibson House Museum is regularly expanding its virtual offerings at thegibsonhouse.org, and Coughlin encourages guests to visit them online.

Linda Marshall, executive director of the Nichols House Museum, said, “We want to be able to reopen this fall, but being a historic house museum, we have to be thoughtful about how we can offer tours within those guidelines.”

The Nichols House Museum, which also previously offered tours for up to 12 non-related individuals, will begin offering tours on Saturdays and Sundays for as many as four guests from the same household or group of friends, and the museum will strictly follow the guidelines for museums and cultural and historical facilities outlined in Phase 3 of Gov. Charlie Baker’s plan for reopening the Commonwealth.

“We’ll have to maintain social distancing and be a little less flexible in terms of flow throughout the museum,” Marshall said, “but the tours won’t look that much different than they did before.”

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