AAM’s guide to US coronavirus resources
Health in the Workplace: COVID-19/coronavirus, American Alliance of Museums, March 2020
Resources and information for the Museum Field.
With the growing spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus) in the United States, museums must be well prepared for potential outbreaks as public spaces, employers for over 726,000 individuals, and institutions that hold significant public trust.
The American Alliance of Museums has compiled this guide to help museums prepare internally and externally for outbreaks in their communities. AAM will continue to monitor this evolving situation and update this guidance as needed. These recommendations are not to be taken as legal advice or a definitive answer for any particular museum, but rather as a guide for preparedness for the field.
Directory of Resources
- Educating the public on COVID-19
- Reviewing staff policies and administrative concerns
- Reviewing cleaning and collections care policies
- Preparing for closures
- Preventing spread at public events and programs
- Preparing for COVID-19 as an individual
- Using digital platforms to remain connected to audiences during quarantines
- Other useful resources
Educating the public on COVID-19
Museums are the most trusted source of information in America, rated higher than local papers, nonprofit researchers, the US government, or academic researchers. Museums can take advantage of this high level of public trust to provide education on COVID-19 and fight misinformation about its spread.
By empowering the public with the information they need to lower their risk of contracting or spreading disease, museums can help sustain healthy communities, maintain calm, and reduce the chances for an increase in discrimination or xenophobia often created by global diseases. See the links below for examples of how museums have used their educational tools to inform the public about outbreaks like coronavirus.
While your staff and visitors may already be receiving information on COVID-19 regularly, it is better to repeat facts and preventative measures than remain quiet. Promote the practice of everyday common-sense preventative actions, such as washing your hands and not touching your face, to your audiences. Share CDC resources for further preventative measures.
Review and prepare your museum’s emergency communications plan should an outbreak of COVID-19 impact your community or museum. Consider all aspects of such plans, including staffing, communications outlets and strategies, procedures for approving information, and the availability of communications resources off-site to disseminate information (social media, website, email, text messaging, voicemail, etc.).
Learn how other museums are educating the public on COVID-19:
- Museum of Science holds town hall for community members
- Smithsonian exhibition combats misinformation about outbreaks
Reviewing staff policies and administrative concerns
Museums should take steps now to revisit and update administrative policies and engage in clear and regular communication with staff in the process. Specific recommendations include:
- Review emergency disaster and succession plans, making changes as needed.
- Review insurance policies with an eye toward how a potential outbreak might impact business interruption insurance or general liability policy.
- Keep human resources policies in mind.
- Engage your staff in scenario planning. In the event of an outbreak in your community, schools may close, or local government may even choose to temporarily close cultural institutions. While we cannot predict what will happen, putting plans in place for different scenarios will help facilitate your museum’s responses no matter the situation.
Museums should track the CDC Travel Health Notices and the State Department Travel Advisories to determine what business travel should be canceled or postponed. The CDC currently recommends that travelers avoid all nonessential travel to China, South Korea, Italy, and Iran.
For employees who have traveled to affected areas, consider implementing self-quarantine requirements. According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), there are no laws that prohibit employers from requiring employees to work remotely from their worksite as a precaution.
Guidance for Employers
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provide extensive guidance for employers, including information relevant for museums as they develop strategies to keep staff safe. This information may help prevent workplace exposure to acute respiratory illnesses and provides planning considerations if there are more widespread community outbreaks of COVID-19.
Recommended strategies for employers:
- Encourage good hygiene
- Perform routine environmental cleaning
- Actively encourage sick employees to stay home
- Museums should consider how best to decrease the spread and lower the impact of COVID-19 in their workplace in the event of an outbreak in their geographic area. They should identify and communicate their objectives, which may include one or more of the following: (a) reducing transmission among staff, (b) protecting people who are at higher risk for adverse health complications, (c) maintaining business operations, and (d) minimizing adverse effects on visitors and other entities in their supply chains.
Reviewing cleaning and collections care policies
As with any contagious illness, good housekeeping is necessary to maintain the health of those in and around the museum during a coronavirus outbreak. But while the safety of people should come first, it is also important to maintain the safety of exhibition spaces and objects, both while on display and in storage. Finding the right balance between using the strongest disinfecting cleaning supplies and those that will not harm people or objects is key.
Preparing for closures
If a museum should need to close, whether due to staff illness or a significant outbreak in its geographical area, workers should be prepared to do the following things:
- Develop comprehensive communications plans to inform the public about the closure
- Ensure that collections are in stable condition to withstand being left alone for days
- Ensure a policy is in place so that environmental and other conditions are suitable and stable on an ongoing basis
Preventing spread at public events and programs
For museums that remain open to the public and host events, we recommend consulting the World Health Organization’s guidelines for organizing mass gatherings in the context of COVID-19. This resource includes recommendations for planning, risk assessment, and other considerations relevant to museums.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also provide applicable guidance for community events, with sections on strategies to implement before, during, and after a potential outbreak.
Preparing for COVID-19 as an individual
Individuals can prepare for outbreaks of COVID-19 by regularly monitoring information distributed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO). Common-sense preventative measures are highly recommended, including:
- Washing your hands often, with soap, for 20 seconds
- Using alcohol-based hand sanitizer
- Not touching your face—especially your eyes, nose, or mouth—with unwashed hands
- Monitoring your health
- Avoiding close contact with anyone who is sick
- Staying home when you are sick, except to get medical care
- Covering your coughs and sneezes with tissues
- Cleaning high-touch areas of your home and workspace frequently
- Limiting close contact with others as much as possible (at least six feet)
Using digital platforms to remain connected to audiences during quarantines
With the looming uncertainty and the public’s growing fear around coronavirus, it is more important than ever for museums and cultural attractions to explore new digital and remote ways to reach audiences. In China, the government is encouraging museums to “promote new technology and inheritance of our country’s cultural heritage,” and Art Basel has launched new online “viewing rooms” in light of the cancellation of its major Hong Kong fair. Online collections, virtual reality, 360-degree video, and live streams have the potential to play critical roles in engaging the public, especially if closures or decreases in attendance occur as a result of this global health emergency.
We will continue to update this resource list, so please check back regularly. Have a resource to share or interested in sharing how your museum is preparing for COVID-19? Please contact our Content Team.
Staying up-to-date on world events
- The American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) has a Coronavirus Tracker with the current World Health Organization statistics on the virus.
- The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) provides a wealth of information on Coronavirus.
- The online emergency preparedness service, ArtsReady, has developed a resource called Preparing for Potential Impact of the Coronavirus.
- The World Health Organization (WHO) shares Information on Coronavirus can help organizations and individuals prevent infectious diseases and Key planning recommendations for Mass Gatherings in the context of the current COVID-19 outbreak.
Communicating about your museum’s response
- The Association for Children’s Museums (ACM) developed a set of resources to help guide your museum’s response to coronavirus, in recognition of the global response to the coronavirus (COVID-19). While focused on children’s museums specifically, the guidelines can be utilized by museums of all kinds and include internal protocols, administrative considerations, external actions, and additional resources.
- The Museums Association (UK) has outlined the impact that the novel coronavirus epidemic is likely to have on the museum sector in this helpful blog post titled “Coronavirus: how will it affect museums and what can be done to mitigate the impact?“.
What other museums are doing
- The Cuseum has prepared a Coronavirus Preparedness Community Document for museums to share information on their planning for Coronavirus.
- For a list of various resources and museum closures see Museum Responses – COVID-19.
- The Frost Science museum is hosting a live community forum to discuss the virus on March 13th.
- The Henry Ford’s recent statement closing all public venues effective March 12th.
- The Milwaukee Art Museum has shared its Infectious Disease & Pandemic Policy.
- The International Association of Children in Museums has created this free guide for children about the coronavirus called “A curious guide for courageous kids“. It contains the story of the virus that is understandable to children.
- For the latest on how museums are responding, check out the Museum Junction discussion on Coronavirus Considerations.
Preparing for Business Continuity
- Americans for the Arts shares a blog post titled “Arts and Culture Sector Can Prepare for the Coronavirus in the United States.”
- Harvard Business Review (HBR) looks at the legal obligations companies face around coronavirus. And the eight critical questions employers should be asking as they prepare for or respond to the spread of the virus.
- The League of American Orchestras developed a set of resources for its members including a link to some potential funding resources to help should the need arise.
- The Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA) created “What Business Events Professionals Need to Know About the COVID-19 Coronavirus” to provide reliable information about the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak.
- The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) provides resources and advice on dealing with communicable diseases in the workplace, including Coronavirus.
- Tech content company TechRepublic shares how to manage remote project teams during the COVID-19 outbreak.
- Follow this discussion on Twitter about what curators can do via telework.
- The U.S. Travel Association provides “Emergency Preparedness and Response: Coronavirus (COVID-19,” a set of resources to help travelers navigate potential health issues while traveling.
- Legal advice firm Venable conducted a webinar on COVID 19 – What Your Nonprofit Needs to Know: Legal Issues Arising from the Novel Coronavirus, which discusses insurance-related issues nonprofits might face as well as a workflow to determine whether or not to cancel events.