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As museums begin to reopen, they're rebooting the visitor experience

Alicia Eler, Star Tribune (Minneapolis) on

Published in Travel News

When museums open again, it won't be the same.

Picture this: Timed tickets. Touch-free doors. Ikea-like signs to direct foot traffic. No more docent-led group tours. And loads of hand sanitizer, of course.

"We are working on creating as much of a touchless journey as possible," said Eric Bruce, head of visitor experience for the Minneapolis Institute of Art, or Mia.

Bruce and his counterparts are strategizing ways to welcome the public following Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz's order allowing museums, along with other recreational or seated entertainment venues, to reopen at 25% of capacity, with a limit of 250 people. Mia has set a July 16 reopening date.

On a national level, the American Alliance of Museums has developed reopening guidelines, including protocols for cleaning and capacity.

Unlike theaters, museums tend to be spacious, making physical distancing easier. With 137,000 square feet of gallery space, Mia has been working with the Carlson School of Business to figure out capacity protocols.


Mia will likely install plexiglass barriers at its welcome desk and other places where staffers are stationed. Cafe tables will be spaced out. There will be special hours for at-risk visitors.

Don't expect Mia's doors to fly open July 16. While admission is free, the museum plans to test timed tickets during the first week.

The initial visitors will essentially be guinea pigs.

Bruce compared the COVID changes to how airports adapted following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.


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