In the past week, we received several resources about reopening historic places and, as we have done in the past, we thought we would share this information to help you as you begin to think about your own reopening requirements.
On Tuesday (May 5), the International National Trusts Organisation hosted a meeting to discuss reopening protocols that are being developed in Italy, the UK, Australia and the USA.
Perhaps most common was a measured and phased approach. This means reopening is not a full opening and, in many cases, some areas of historic sites will remain closed until they can safely be opened. For a historic house, this could mean limiting access to a floor (which could have only one entry/exit point requiring people to pass by each other) or a space (such as a small room where social distancing cannot be maintained).
Surveys in the UK are indicating people are ready to return to historic sites as they look for safe, nostalgic experiences. Surveys elsewhere suggest people are not ready to return to indoor activities, but instead they will first seek larger, outdoor spaces where distancing can still be maintained. Either way, access to indoor spaces will need to be reconsidered as site managers put into place new protocols, such as:
Working together has been key to managing the spread of COVID-19 and expanding on that idea, through coordination with other businesses and sectors, is a way to support the safety and wellbeing of the entire community. For sites with accommodation and food services, it will be important to know what protocols have been developed specifically to those sectors. Overall, it could be beneficial to know the plans of neighbouring businesses and business associations, so that heritage sites can prepare to reopen in the context of their communities.
At this time, no one really knows what is the ‘right’ path forward, and so flexibility and responsiveness will be important to developing, delivering and responding as the reopening protocols are rolled out. If you discover your plan is not working as anticipated or your organization is not able to maintain the desired level of safety, reversing your plan is always possible.
Many sites operate with the support of volunteers, many of whom may be more vulnerable to the virus. This is leading organizations to build new relationships with volunteers by devising new jobs (for example, digitizing information that is typically handed to the visitors) and reducing their interaction with the public.
Reopening cannot be equated with full revenue generation as it is expected historic sites will have to incur greater costs in this new paradigm than can be recovered in revenues. Knowing your increased costs may not be covered, it may still be acceptable to open as a service to the public and to restore a connection to the community. But, for other organizations, increased expenses may not be tenable and so remaining closed is the wiser decision. Additionally, some sites may not have the funds to re-engage a full complement of staff or to implement new maintenance and cleaning protocols and so cash flow will influence how a site reopens. Knowing revenues will be slow to start, the challenge to historic site managers will be to balance these issues when determining what parts (if any) of the site will be reopened.
Rather than developing a plan to get your doors open, it is probably wiser to consider longer-term planning that will take you further into the future. In fact, more and more people are suggesting a return to normal is no longer the goal, but instead this is the time for new business models and strategies. This can be an opportunity to change what we do and to create something new out of the disruption.
As Winston Churchill said, “Never let a good crisis go to waste.”
Following are other ideas we received in the past week. We offer for your consideration but, of course, it is important that you consider your organization’s needs and safety and balance that with the needs and safety of the public.
To start, here is perhaps the sagest of advice: If you are not ready to open – don’t.
Re-engaging Historic Sites 6
Following an earlier meeting of the International National Trusts Organization, it was reported its members are:
Reopening Safely: Helpful Tips for Community Leaders
Main Street America put together a two-page bulletin to help heritage sites and districts re-open for business. Here is a summary (partially rephrased for a BC context):
As you begin to think about your reopening protocol, keep in mind to provincial protocols that remain in place (as of May 5).
Gatherings: a reminder
On March 16th, by the Order of the Provincial Health Officer, all event organizers are ordered to limit all public gatherings larger than 50 people. This includes indoor and outdoor sporting events, conferences, meetings, religious gatherings or other similar events. (source)
The BC Centre of Disease Control offers these tips to practice physical distancing in public (source)