Detroit museums prepare for July reopenings
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's COVID-19 lockdown on museums ends Monday, but don't expect to visit your Detroit favorites until sometime in mid-July.
The Cultural Center institutions -- the Detroit Historical Museum, Detroit Institute of Arts, Michigan Science Center, Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, College for Creative Studies and the Scarab Club -- are coordinating their reopenings, and working with Midtown Detroit Inc. and NSF International (National Sanitation Foundation) to come up with common safety protocols.
The DIA is also contracting with NSF on its own to develop a plan suited to the museum's particular needs.
The Henry Ford, which was not part of these discussions, is in the process of finalizing its own COVID program and is planning "on an early-July opening," said spokesperson Melissa Foster.
When the Cultural Center entities do reopen, the plan is to do it at roughly the same time to generate maximum attention and fizz.
"We're planning a coordinated P.R. effort around an opening that will take place sometime between early-to-mid July," said Elana Rugh, executive director and CEO of the Detroit Historical Museum.
"We've agreed we want to reopen in the same time frame," she added, speaking just after she clicking out of a Friday-afternoon Zoom meeting with the respective CEOs.
"And it may be that for the first few days," Rugh said, "admission may be limited to (institutions') members." But she underlined that nothing has yet been set in stone.
The coordinated effort, now in its fourth week, has been underwritten by the nonprofit Midtown Detroit Inc., with expert guidance from NSF International. The latter came up with a best-practices document said to exceed 100 pages.
"It's a telephone-book-sized reopening program and toolkit," said Midtown Detroit's Annmarie Borucki, who's coordinating the effort.
The document is designed to help institutions assess their risk, their space, identify all high touch points and decide whether to get rid of them or not -- as well as figuring out how to deal with employee training, outside contractors, personnel testing, visitor screening, and any number of other suddenly urgent concerns.
It is, Borucki said, a "plug-and-play system" adaptable to the specific needs of each institution.
One crowd control and social-distancing answer for some museums may well be timed entry -- like what you often get with blockbuster exhibitions at large museums.
At the Historical Museum, Rugh noted, visitors will likely be restricted to a designated path through the galleries.
The Cultural Center participants will submit individual plans Monday, Borucki said, which will likely be finalized at the group's Thursday meeting.
"The CEOs are pretty well-aligned on the major issues," she said. "The goal is for everyone to reopen in July, though there might be a couple outliers that won’t be able to, depending on the institution."