INTERNATIONAL FOUNDATION FORCULTURAL PROPERTY PROTECTION
Reposted from AAM
In the museum experience world, making visitors feel welcome is serious business. Our goal is to exceed guests’ standards for positive experiences, and nothing undermines that goal like a lack of inclusivity or accessibility. When a visitor feels unwelcome, it has a pervasive effect on their whole visit, making it difficult or even impossible for them to feel comfortable enough to interpret information, learn, and connect. But the good news is, any museum staff person coming in contact with your visitors can transform this outcome, giving visitors the sense of comfort and belonging that will contribute to an exceptional experience.
As a twelve-year visitor experience professional—and one who is so passionate about positive museum experiences that I recently wrote a book about them—I have watched museums become more conscious of this dynamic. As they embrace their role as community gathering places, they are recognizing their responsibility to serve their entire communities, and nowhere is this a more urgent priority than for those directly interfacing with visitors. To learn how museums are tackling this urgent priority, I talked to visitor experience professionals around the country to learn what new approaches are taking root in making front-line museum staff into strong advocates for diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion.
Wanessa Tillman, the Director of Visitor Services at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, understands just how much of a priority DEAI is for the front line. Case in point: the department publishes a monthly newsletter, The Gardner Gazette, where DEAI is a frequent topic, and sometimes the sole focus of an issue. As part of onboarding, new hires receive a copy of the newsletter and attend implicit bias training. Tillman sees these as crucial steps in setting up the team for success. “We need our department to be reflective of our community, and ready to receive that entire community,” she explains.
The Gardner’s strategic plan tasks each department with embedding DEAI principles into its work. For the Visitor Services department, this has meant developing its own DEAI plan, which focuses on scrutinizing how bias can derail interpersonal interactions. To achieve this, staff are participating in a regular reading group to discuss texts like Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People by Anthony Greenwald and Mahzarin Banaji and What Can a Body Do? by Sara Hendren and examine how they apply to their work.
At the Field Museum, Michael Padilla, Visitor Services Team Leader, and Darnell Williams, Director of Visitor Services, are also doing their part to galvanize the institution’s DEAI work. Part of the team’s role involves helping the museum celebrate heritage months, including Black History Month, Latinx Heritage Month, Native American History Month, Women’s History Month, and Pride Month. The front-line staff are the primary face of these celebrations for visitors, informing them about related programming, passing out commemorative pins, and getting them excited overall to celebrate different cultures and identities. During Women’s History Month, an initiative called “Her Stories” highlights different women-identifying staff members on the front line and “celebrates their stories, their wins, and where they came from,” Padilla says.
The team also participates in Customer Service Week, a museum-wide celebration and discussion that takes places in the first week of October. “During this time, each day has a different focus,” Williams explains. “For example, one day we will focus on accessibility. And on that day, we talk openly about accessibility, we focus on how we can make our accessibility better and we share it with our entire organization.” During one Customer Service Week, for instance, Padilla gained a stronger appreciation of the museum’s sensory backpacks program, and decided to make it a focus for the whole team to understand the backpacks and be better able to explain their purpose and use to guests. Padilla was recognizing something key about visitor services staff: that they act as the critical connector between initiative and guest, turning a great idea into a reality on the ground.
The team is also considering what it can do to break down language barriers with guests to make those whose first language is not English feel more welcome. Williams encourages front-line staff to use Duolingo, a free mobile app that teaches “bite-sized” language lessons in a few minutes a day, to start learning some basic phrases they can deploy. “One of our staff chose to learn Russian!” Williams says admiringly.
Another museum focusing on language barriers in the Neon Museum in Las Vegas. This October, the museum began offering guided tours of its collection in Spanish, and it is currently working to raise funding to include ASL interpreters at programs and on certain tour offerings.
In addition to language, the museum is also working to expand the content of its tours to be more inclusive. It is currently hiring a Tour Development Coordinator who will be tasked with creating tours specific to the experiences of Las Vegas’s Black, Latinx, Indigenous, LGBT, and Jewish communities. The tours will provide visitors with a deeper dive into Las Vegas history from both first-person and scholarly perspectives. Rob Wilson, the museum’s Director of Guest Experience, says the first tour should be available by January 2022. He says the museum is taking these steps partly to encourage repeat visitation and gain visitor affection, but mostly because they want to be accessible and welcoming to all.
As these examples show, accessibility and inclusion are not just concepts to think about. They are calls to action, to do the work of including and providing access in big and small ways every day. Front-line staff can be the natural people to start this work, but they need training to learn how, especially because they are often emerging professionals newer to the field. They need to be empowered to understand the needs of communities different from their own and learn to embrace experiences and meaning across a range of human ability. Invest in them for greater insight on how to better serve your publics, and you will receive a maximum return.
ere are some parting takeaways from my conversations with visitor service teams:
See Original Post
Reposted from The New York Times
The Metropolitan Museum of Art has agreed to increase the salaries of its security guards, part of an effort to ease staffing shortages that have arisen as the institution is buffeted by the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
Like many businesses, health care facilities and cultural organizations, the Met has struggled in recent weeks with employee absences, at times closing multiple galleries to cope with a security staff reduced, on the worst days, by as much as a third because of illness.
On one day in early January, for example, some 80 of the museum’s roughly 430 galleries were closed, including rooms displaying medieval, Egyptian, Chinese, European and American art and objects.
But while the immediate staffing issue is largely related to the surge of the highly contagious Omicron variant, the museum has also had a longer-term problem hiring guards to rebuild its staff after layoffs in 2020 that came in response to the pandemic.
In August 2020, five months after it had closed its doors and as the financial impact of the pandemic deepened, the Met furloughed about 120 guards who worked at the main museum on Fifth Avenue or at two satellites, the Met Cloisters and the Met Breuer. Those guards were later laid off, the museum said.
Since then, the Met has hired back dozens of those guards, and said recently that it had openings for 40 more. But like many service-oriented organizations and businesses, it has also encountered an unusually competitive labor market that has made attracting job candidates more difficult.
Until last month, guards starting at the Met had been paid $15.51 an hour, just above the $15 minimum wage for fast food workers in New York state. Now guards are paid a starting wage of $16.50 as part of an agreement with Local 1503 of District Council 37, which represents guards and maintainers at the museum.
“The hiring issues are largely based on pay,” said Freddi Goldstein, a spokeswoman for District Council 37, which is involved in continuing contract negotiations with the Met. “We’re working with the museum and we’re helping to bring those rates up, but certainly pay has been an issue over time.”
The wage increase comes as several museum employees said the morale of some guards had sunk because they felt worn out and undervalued while working in often difficult circumstances. Last month, several nonunion employee-run groups within the museum, including one called the Collections Care Group Leadership Team, sent a letter to Daniel Weiss, the Met’s president and chief executive, and Max Hollein, the Met’s director, saying, “We recognize that our union colleagues feel unappreciated and unseen.”
The Met’s main building on Fifth Avenue is now served by a staff of some 300 full-time guards versus the 404 that had been assigned there before the pandemic, museum officials said. They added that the decrease had been partially driven by the fact that the museum is not open as many hours as before and by a new way of deploying guards that emphasizes targeted patrols over stationary posts.
Still, officials at the Met said they hope that the higher wages would help with hiring and noted that they stood by their workers when the museum closed in March 2020 by keeping all employees on the payroll for months.
“I’m enormously proud of our collective staff,” Weiss said by telephone. “They have stepped forward to protect the institution and preserve our mission.”
Under the new wage agreement, existing guards receiving $15.51 an hour will also be paid the new starting wage of $16.50 an hour. District Council 37 said that average pay among guards at the museum was around $20 an hour.
The new rate places the Met ahead of the American Museum of Natural History, where guards, represented there by its Local 1306 of District Council 37, are paid $15.51 an hour to start. Entry-level guards at the Museum of Modern Art, represented by 32BJ S.E.I.U., a local chapter of the Service Employees International Union, are paid $21.65.
As the Omicron variant spread in recent weeks, other museums have experienced staff shortages because of illness. For example, the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington is closed until later this month, and its National Museum of Natural History, was closed briefly amid a shortage of visitor services staff but has now reopened.
In New York City, where record numbers of Covid-19 cases have been reported, the Met has reduced its visitor capacity. Anne Canty, a spokeswoman for the American Museum of Natural History, said its galleries had remained open except for the museum’s Butterfly Conservatory, which has been closed for several weeks because of shortages among specialized employees and volunteers.
Amanda Hicks, a spokeswoman for the Museum of Modern Art, said that, while some employees had been out because of the impact of Covid, no galleries had closed.
Until recent weeks, the number of galleries closed at the Met on Fifth Avenue had been more modest, though the closing of any one section has the potential to disappoint a visitor. Dan Nazzaro, for instance, traveled to the museum from Parsippany, N.J., on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, when two European Sculpture and Decorative Arts galleries were closed, as well as several in the American Wing.
Nazzaro said he had visited specifically to view an American Wing gallery displaying an 18th-century cabriole-leg Massachusetts settee and other furniture. But on this day it was cordoned off with a rope and a sign that read “temporarily closed.” Gazing at the objects inside, Nazzaro said he wished that the museum had used its website to list gallery closings in real time.
Museum leaders have said they are confident the Met’s staff, visitors and collection continued to be safe, even as staff shortages became more pronounced in early January. Regina Lombardo, the Met’s chief of security, said in an interview that the museum had determined that it was more effective to assign guards to patrol and move them from place to place, sometimes based on information from cameras, than to always keep them at fixed posts.
But a larger staff was still in order, museum officials said, although fewer guards of late appear to be calling in sick. The Met said it had just hired seven new guards and planned to hire more. Lombardo said she believed the pay increase would help accomplish that, adding: “We’re fishing in a bigger pond.”
Reposted from The Art Newspaper
Getting into the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in Los Angeles involves making an online timed-entry reservation, paying general admissions ($18 for adults, less for seniors and students, free for members and children under 12) and, more recently, wearing a surgical, KN95, N95 or KF94 face mask. That last requirement, instituted in mid-January, is a first for an art museum in California or elsewhere in the US, although others may be following suit in the coming weeks and months.
Amy Shapiro, deputy director of the museum, says that the institution’s “guiding principle throughout the pandemic has been to put the safety of our staff and visitors first. With the rising cases of the Omicron variant, alongside efficacy studies on which masks work best, we made the decision to update our mask policy for staff and visitors”.
LA MoCA’s policy, she says, stemmed from overall regulations set by the city of Los Angeles, which requires proof of full vaccination to enter the museum, with exemptions only permitted for those unable to take the vaccine due to a medical condition or a sincerely held religious belief. “Those exempt,” she adds, “will need to provide proof of a negative Covid-19 test taken within 72 hours prior to visiting.”
The rules about what visitors to museums are required to do or provide in order to enter these institutions is a mixed bag, based on laws in the local community, state or just within the museums themselves.
“Frankly, it’s a patchwork, and places are changing rules and practices as infection rates change their communities,” says Laura Roberts, a museum consultant in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She notes that some institutions require proof of vaccination and timed entry tickets in order to limit the number of people in the building at one time, while others do not.
Bans on mask mandates in all public schools and government buildings in Florida and Texas do not apply to private museums, but some of these institutions tend to make mask-wearing optional perhaps to avoid incurring the wrath of state officials and members of the public. The Dallas Museum of Art’s website informs prospective visitors that as of 21 October 2021, “face coverings are no longer required indoors for fully vaccinated visitors and staff; however, face coverings are recommended to maximise protection from the Delta and Omicron variants per CDC guidance”. On the other hand, the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston requires face masks be worn indoors at all its locations.
In Florida, the Tampa Museum of Art “no longer requires the use of face masks to visit indoor galleries and leaves the decision of mask usage up to each individual for their own safety and the safety of others”, while the policy at the Ringling Museum in Sarasota holds that “face masks are expected, but not required to be worn”. The Pérez Art Museum Miami has a stricter policy, with facial coverings “required for all visitors—ages two and older—and museum staff in accordance with CDC and Miami-Dade County guidelines”. The Pérez also promotes one-way movement through museum galleries, and hand sanitising stations are located throughout the galleries, lobby and outdoor areas, in order to limit congestion and the potential spread of infection.
The patchwork of rules is also found in Washington, DC, where all visitors aged two and up to the National Gallery of Art are required to wear masks indoors, but as of 15 January those 12 and older planning to eat at the museum (or at any café or restaurant in the district) will need to prove that they have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine; beginning 15 February, proof of a second does will be required.
The Cleveland Museum of Art is no longer requiring all visitors to submit to a temperature screening, while the more cautious Harvard Art Museums mandate visitors wear masks and provide a proof of vaccination or a negative Covid-19 PCR test. Those face masks also must “cover both the nose and mouth of the wearer and must provide a tight fit against the face. Unacceptable face coverings include single-layer cloth face coverings, bandanas hanging loosely and not secured under the chin, masks with exhalation valves/vents, and coverings made from loosely woven material or highly elastic fabric”.
The J. Paul Getty Museum is “considering the mask issue”, according to a spokesperson, although the museum’s current rules are clearer about what is not accepted—“gaiters, bandanas, scarves, ski masks, balaclavas or masks with an exhalation valve”—than what is.
Reposted from Fox19 Now
The Cincinnati Art Museum and the Taft Museum of Art will close for a week and a half starting Monday to give their staff members a break.
Cincinnati Art Museum’s Louis and Louise Dieterle Nippert Director Cameron Kitchin says it is a “needed intermission” after two years of the pandemic.
This includes indoor galleries, Terrace Cafe, the museum shop, and public programs so that employees and volunteers can focus on healing and community service.
The Taft Museum of Art says that they are temporarily closing due to the spread of COVID-19 and to ensure the safety of staff, volunteers and visitors.. Programs and events will be rescheduled or held virtually.
Officials with the museum add that ticket holders will also be notified of cancellations and/or rescheduled dates. They will also honor refunds.
Museum officials say all staff will continue full employment and receive regular pay and benefits during the closure.
The Cincinnati Art Museum and the Taft Museum of Art are not the only places in the Cincinnati area to close temporarily.
On Friday, Perfect North announced that they were temporarily closing due to the unusual weather.
According to FOX19 NOW’s meteorologist Steve Horstmeyer, temperatures were in the 60s and 50s on Friday and Saturday, with heavy rain through Saturday night.
Perfect North says that they will reopen Monday at 1 p.m.
Reposted from ArtForum
As the Covid-19 crisis looks set to enter its third year, US museum workers, many of whose jobs were precarious or attached to low wages even prior to the pandemic, continue to push for unionization in an effort to gain some measure of job security and ensure safe working conditions. Staff at the Art Institute of Chicago this week concluded a process begun last summer and voted overwhelmingly to unionize, with 144 in favor, twenty-two against, and twenty votes “not counted due to management challenges.” The employees will join the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, becoming the first at a major Chicago institution to do so.
Meanwhile, in New York, employees of the Jewish Museum are seeking to join the Technical, Office, and Professional Union Local 2110 UAW. Should they be successful in their efforts, art handlers, curators, educators, and development staff would be among those included, as well as public-facing staff including retail and visitor experience workers. The museum—which in addition to struggling with Covid-related closures and safety measures was in summer 2020 roiled by allegations of a lack of workplace diversity—has said that it will “will respectfully engage in any process that transpires.”
The uncertainty faced by museum workers is now being felt by institutions themselves, thanks to the pandemic’s relentless grind. Seeking to mitigate staffing shortages brought on by the recent surge of the Omicron variant, New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art announced that it would increase the pay of its museum guards, raising the starting wage from $15.51 per hour, just above New York State’s minimum wage, to $16.50. The institution negotiated the raise with Local 1503 of District Council 37, which represents the guards.
Given the aforementioned precarity associated with many museum jobs and the multiple arts-institution staff unionizations taking place across the country in recent years, organization seems likely to continue apace. With Covid-19 in the mix, ravaging staff numbers both in terms of ill employees calling in sick and in regard to hiring issues, with fewer people hungry for public-facing jobs perceived as risky to personal health, many museums may find themselves following in the footsteps of the Met and raising wages in the coming months.
Reposted from CNBC
The U.S. has reported a record single-day number of daily Covid cases, with more than 1 million new infections.
A total of 1,082,549 new coronavirus cases were reported Monday, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, as the highly infectious omicron variant continues to spread throughout the country.
The new daily tally brings the total number of cases confirmed in the U.S. since the start of the pandemic to 56,189,547. In total, the virus has caused at least 827,748 deaths across the country.
The record single-day total may be due in part to delayed reporting from over the holiday weekend. A number of U.S. states did not report data on Dec. 31, New Year’s Eve, and many do not report data on weekends, meaning that some of these cases could be from positive tests taken on prior days.
Nonetheless, as of Jan. 3, the seven-day average of daily new U.S. cases is 480,273, the highest such metric of new cases in any country tracked by Johns Hopkins.
About 98,000 Americans are hospitalized with Covid-19, according to a seven-day average of data from the Department of Health and Human Services as of Jan. 3, up 32% from a week ago. That figure is approaching peak delta wave levels when about 103,000 people were in hospital beds with Covid across the country in early September, but remains lower than last winter’s high mark of roughly 137,000 U.S. hospitalizations.
The U.S. is reporting an average of about 1,200 daily Covid deaths for the week ended Jan. 3, Johns Hopkins data shows, well below the record numbers seen following last year’s holiday season when the daily average held above 3,000 for about a month starting in January 2021. The death toll tends to lag rises in case counts and hospitalizations, however.
In recent weeks, the U.S. has seen the omicron variant starting to edge out the previously dominant delta strain of the virus.
The latest available weekly data from the U.S. CDC, ended on Dec. 25, estimates that the delta variant accounted for around 41% of cases while omicron made up around 58.6% of U.S. infections.
U.S. health officials have urged Americans to get vaccinated and boosted against the coronavirus given concerns over the new variant.
Early studies suggested that Covid vaccines are less effective against the omicron variant compared with the delta strain and other variants. But the same studies have indicated that three vaccine doses — the two preliminary shots plus a booster — significantly increase the level of protection against omicron.
Research has also suggested that the omicron variant causes less severe infections.
The rise of the variant led to thousands of flight cancellations during the holiday season and has caused some businesses and schools to consider temporary closures. Several major Wall Street banks have asked employees to work from home for the first few weeks of January.
Reposted from Security Magazine
The entry security checkpoint into a protected venue, such as a museum, is one of the last lines of defense and deterrence in the security ring — it ensures people and their belongings are checked and cleared individually prior to gaining access into a facility. Bad actors and threat items that have not been caught by previous security rings — intelligence, commute, parking, and walkways, for example — will need to be cleared at this location.
In the pre-pandemic period, classic security and operational planning required balancing the four Ds (deter, deny, delay and detect) as well as operational efficiencies, such as orderly line management and people flow. In addition, this ring often represents the first greeting of all guests, and as such aims to facilitate a respectful and positive guest experience. However, the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has brought about an added layer of consideration to the balance: public health.
Advanced technologies such as automation and artificial intelligence (AI) can enable better efficiencies and self-service, but they can also minimize contact by security personnel, assist with social distancing and reduce unnecessary contact with high-touch areas. In order to accomplish these goals, the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C., has deployed a technology-supported protocol as part of its adjustment to meet the new need of public health protection.
The Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C., first opened its doors to the public in 2017, and has since established itself as one of the major attractions on the National Mall. Since its foundation, the museum has put a strong emphasis on the combination of customer service with a high level of security required for the protection of both people and the valuable historical content of the museum. The museum implemented the Qylur Q self-service entry security solution with advanced technologies including automation, AI, and collaborative human-machine interaction.
The access control solution integrates multiple technologies which have been deployed at the venue’s security checkpoint and security operations center. Each Q kiosk has five independent self-service pods, which use color-panel indicators to direct guest bag screening activity. Remote screeners work in tandem with the kiosks’ AI-automated detection to achieve the highest level of detection of both security threats and prohibited items.
In March 2020, as the COVID-19 outbreak made its way across the U.S., the museum closed to the public as part of the lockdown and closure measures mandated by the mayor of Washington, D.C. During that period, the Museum of the Bible’s leadership team planned for the anticipated reopening and the required COVID-19 response preparedness that would be allowed during Phase II of the mayor’s guidance. The museum security team was tasked with the expanded charge of protecting employee and public health by following the many new procedures published by health authorities.
From the operational perspective, a new line-management protocol was adopted to ensure social distancing and abide by health regulations which focused on a safe environment for all guests and staff within the museum. A new self-resolution for non-threatening prohibited items and adjusted locations for the officers was also implemented to help reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission (see Figure 3 for operational line management pre-COVID-19 and during the Phase II reopening). These adjustments ensured that not only did guests feel safe while visiting the museum, but officers and staff also knew that their safety was top priority for the museum’s leadership.
Additionally, a new “pandemic mode” flow control algorithm was developed and implemented in the access control kiosk. In normal times, a key goal is to maximize people flow by using all five pods at the same time. However, to accommodate social distancing requirements, the Museum of the Bible leveraged the visual cues, automation and self-service capabilities of the kiosk in a new algorithm that set the colors of the pod panels to ensure that only one guest per side could approach and use the system. In other words, a guest could only use the kiosk at each corner (front left, front right, back left, and back right). With only two cells operational on each side, guests would be at different sections of the Q kiosk during their process, thus always following social distancing guidelines.
These measures, along with the training received by the officers, focused on protecting the public as well as the staff and allowed the museum to open much sooner than many of its counterparts within the District of Columbia.
More than 3 months later, when the city announced its second phase of easing the lockdown, the museum was one of the very first attractions to reopen, having to chart its own course in new territory. To date, the Museum of the Bible has had millions of visitors go through museum entry security, with peak pre-COVID-19 daily scans of several thousands of patrons. The museum has locked and contained tens of thousands of potential threats and prohibited objects. During the period from June 2020 to May 2021, while operating in pandemic mode, the museum continued to welcome guests at a high rate, maintaining smooth and easy operations throughout. As of June 2021, the facility returned to pre-pandemic mode while retaining the ability to re-engage pandemic mode with a simple settings change, allowing the museum to make quick changes if conditions worsened in the city.
As many public institutions learned throughout this pandemic, situations can change swiftly, and security professionals must be prepared to react just as quickly. As technology improves and changes how we conduct our daily lives, having the ability to use these systems to adapt how we protect our institutions is crucial and will help the security industry face the next world-altering scenario.
Reposted from Inc.
The pandemic changed everything, and for most employees, it's had a resounding impact on how they perform and simply do work. With unprecedented quit rates in the millions every month, employees now demand much more from their organizations than merely "work" and "pay."
With the Great Resignation in full swing, organizations must invest in helping their managers relearn skills that will enable them to address the new, unique needs of their teams.
To navigate this new world of work, here are three steps that will set these leaders apart as we head into a new year.
Although the repercussions of the pandemic may not fully play out for years, one thing is clear: You cannot ignore the mental health of your employees.
Considering the importance of addressing mental health in the workplace and countering these common barriers, there are many strategies leaders can implement to foster a caring culture. For example:
To truly understand what employees want from their organizations, Degreed surveyed 2,400 global employees, including team managers and leaders, across all sectors and company sizes.
The research focused on how the workforce learns by looking at the differences between those who rated their company learning cultures as positive (called promoters) and those who rated their learning cultures as negative (detractors).
In positive learning cultures, managers play a proactive role in their team's learning. They engage their people by creating development plans, finding new opportunities to grow, and sharing feedback on progress. The difference is staggering: Promoters are 270 percent more likely to say their manager supports their development.
Additionally, the research found that professional growth is recognized more continuously than just promotions every few years. Lateral moves, stretch assignments, and mentorships all provide crucial opportunities for individual development.
Limeade, an organization dedicated to researching and improving employee well-being, recently released its new study, "The Great Resignation Update," to examine why the "Great Resigners" left.
When asked how their new employer compared to their previous employer, job changers feel more comfortable disclosing a mental health condition and a greater sense that their new company cares about their well-being.
"When employees feel cared about, they're more committed, engaged, have lower stress, and better well-being," said Jessi Crast, researcher at Limeade.
Crast defines a caring culture as "providing organizational support for employee's social, physical, occupational, and emotional well-being." One way to achieve a caring culture is equipping managers with the right skills, like the ability to empathize with direct reports.
Other tips Crast recommends include fostering peer social networks, providing transparency from leadership, offering tools and resources, enabling two-way communication, and investing in employees' development.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art said Tuesday that it would limit attendance to roughly 10,000 visitors per day because of the highly infectious Omicron variant. During a normal holiday season, the museum would expect nearly twice as many visitors.
“The safety of our staff and visitors remains our top priority,” the Met’s chief executive, Daniel H. Weiss, said in a statement. “Reduced density is a first step we can take — and our dedicated staff has done an extraordinary job in making necessary changes to adapt to our public health circumstances while also allowing the museum to remain open and keep everyone safe.”
The move came as another major institution, the Baltimore Museum of Art, said that it was closing its galleries through Dec. 29 because of an increase in positive coronavirus tests.
“We need a moment to step back and ensure our staff is ready to serve museum visitors,” the Baltimore museum said in an email on Tuesday. “We think cautiously is the best way to move forward.”
On Thursday, the Winter Show (a large art, antique and design fair) postponed its Jan. 20 opening at the Park Avenue Armory, with plans to announce new dates in the coming weeks. In Queens, the Noguchi Museum has closed through Jan. 4 because of the Omicron variant. And in New Haven, Conn., the Yale University Art Gallery and Yale Center for British Art have both closed through Jan. 2.
Kenneth Weine, the Met’s spokesman, said that reduced capacity would help limit density inside the building’s entrances. Outside the entrances, though, with staff members checking vaccination status of visitors, he said there could be longer lines. The Met will also end food services starting on Thursday and is asking many employees to work from home.
Reports of coronavirus cases in New York State have increased by more than 80 percent over two weeks, and federal authorities have said the Omicron variant now accounts for nearly three-quarters of new cases.
Cultural institutions have typically relied on the holidays to aid revenue. This latest coronavirus surge has led to the sudden cancellation of performances and special programming around the city. Over the weekend, nearly a third of all Broadway shows were canceled because of positive coronavirus tests among their casts and crews, and several are shut down through Christmas.
“The museum field is already facing a slow recovery,” said Laura Lott, president and chief executive of the American Alliance of Museums.
“Another wave of reduced capacity and potential closures, without further federal assistance, could prove devastating,” she added.
Museums are also implementing new safety measures. Both the National Gallery of Art in Washington and the Brooklyn Museum, for example, have canceled many in-person tours.
Reposted from US News & World Report
An information technology system security breach detected late last month prompted the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts to shut down its website for a state investigation, the museum announced this week.
There’s no evidence that the breach is connected to the ransomware attack on Virginia legislative agencies’ IT systems, The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported. Virginia State Police are investigating a ransomware attack on state legislative agencies, discovered late Sunday night.
There’s also no evidence that personal or financial information was accessed or compromised, spokeswoman Jan Hatchette said. The museum said it hopes to restore the website by the end of the week.
The museum, an independent agency of the state, said the Virginia Information Technologies Agency detected a compromise in the website in late November, along with “evidence indicating an existing security threat from an unauthorized third-party.”
Hatchette said the museum took the website offline while the breach is investigated, contained and the website's functionality is restored. A temporary website was put up “until the restoration is complete,” she said.
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