By Lindsey Banks
After being closed for nearly 10 months, the Ackland Art Museum is scheduled to reopen Wednesday, Jan. 27, at 25-percent capacity.
The museum will open to groups of four or smaller through scheduled online reservations, following suggested guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services and UNC.
Masks and social distancing will be required, and hand sanitizer stations will be set up throughout the museum. Staff will encourage attendees to use the digital map on their personal devices to navigate exhibits.
Museum Director Katie Ziglar said she spoke to other museums and public health experts to establish a reopening plan and protocols.
She said the Ackland had planned to open sooner, but there were delays due to outside construction on the perimeter of the building.
“The construction was next to the front door, which made it unsafe for people to use,” Ziglar said. “We had been prepared in terms of developing our protocols quite a while ago, but we were determined in opening by waiting for this construction to get to the point that it has reached.”
She also said that employees and attendees will be asked prescreening questions upon entering the building to ensure they have not been exposed to the virus or are experiencing symptoms.
“We consider this the first phase of our reopening,” Ziglar said. “As the COVID numbers go down, we assume that we’ll be able to start back doing group tours and other normal activities in concert with those numbers changing.”
Public tours, onsite programs and events are currently suspended. Instead, the Ackland has been hosting events and programs virtually through Zoom, said Public Programs Coordinator Lindsey Hale.
Since last March, the Ackland has hosted 76 virtual programs from community members as well as people interested across the world, Hale said. In a typical pre-pandemic year, the Ackland hosts about 250 in-person events, including tours.
“We’ve had people attend programs from Guadaloupe to Mexico to England,” Hale said. “It’s just been really interesting to see what happens when the museum goes online because that’s not something that all museums were doing or had the bandwidth or the staff to have a huge online presence.”
Hale said she plans to have 40 to 50 programs continuing now through May. The cost of these virtual events will range from free to $5. Post-pandemic, she said she hopes to continue offering online programs to reach a larger audience.
Since closing its door at the beginning of the pandemic, the museum has been working on new exhibitions, programs and fundraisers, Ziglar said.
Hours have been changed to Wednesday through Saturday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. The second-floor gallery will also be closed upon reopening.
“We have taken every precaution to make it safe for everybody, visitors and our staff alike,” Ziglar said. “We welcome them back and would love to have them come back to visit us.”