The new normal for Saddleworth Museum and Gallery

On Friday 20th March, as part of the UK government actions against the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, museums and art galleries were among the first instructed to close. Like many other organisations, some who closed even later, this has been a difficult time for Saddleworth Museum, High Street in Uppermill. We have only managed “bits and pieces” fundraising and have mainly focused on free Facebook promotions and one virtual art exhibition.

On Wednesday 24th June, guidance and instruction aimed at, amongst others, a museum re-opening on 4th July, was issued by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy and Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport. Saddleworth Museum has been working hard since the 24th June on making all the changes required, but realised incredibly early on that a re-opening on 4th July would be impossible.

Museums, especially independents and charities like Saddleworth Museum, face far more challenges and changes than many others. We rely heavily on volunteers of course and, with furloughed staff and a board of trustees, we now believe we have completed the detailed consultation process required despite all the restrictions around the rules for meetings. Again, we have used electronic means to communicate whenever possible. We already had Covid compliant activities looking after incoming post, Friends membership subscriptions and essential building maintenance etc. We knew that the correct working practise restrictions meant that the work we needed to do, and the equipment we needed to install, would take a long time.

The new normal for the museum will initially mean fewer people (both visitors and volunteers) on site with staff working from home if possible and fewer afternoons open. There will also be the expected hand sanitisation stations, one-way systems, arrows, barriers, and warning posters etc. etc. From re-opening day and the longer term, the new normal will mean an appointments system for visitors to help in access control and of course the essential data collection requirement for NHS Test and Trace. The museum will also need to move to an enhanced website which can deal with more on-line booking, on-line shopping, and on-line events.

Whilst we have several project activities every day, our last expected major review of our progress will be on, or around, the 20th July. Once we are sure that everything is, or certain to be, as safe and secure  as we can make it for the public and volunteers and staff we may be able to announce when we present our new normal to the public. We hope to do this one weekend in August.

There will be a further update on, or around 21st July.