COVID Guidance for Local Historical Societies
Last updated: November 16, 2020
Please note that this is provided for informational purposes only. While an effort will be made to update as applicable due to changes in state guidelines or mandates, we encourage you to visit https://accd.vermont.gov/covid-19 for latest information from the state government, and to be aware of any additional requirements or guidelines from your local municipality.
Libraries, museums, and galleries were able to open on June 1st. See below for specific guidance/requirements. The Vermont Historical Society’s Museum in Montpelier reopened on July 1 (with limitations). In addition, VHS is continuing to hold the majority of its programs virtually. Read our article on how we prepared for reopening here.
We understand the uncertainty and need for guidance for many smaller organizations in the state around resuming operations, reopening to the public, and hosting events or programs. While the decision on if, when, and how to reopen must be an individual decision at the organization level, below are some resources and guidelines that may help you in making those decisions.
Current Applicable Guidelines/Mandates
8.4 Indoor Arts, Culture and Entertainment (Effective 6/1)
- Libraries, galleries, museums, theaters and other indoor arts, culture and entertainment organizations are limited to 50% (fifty percent) of approved fire safety occupancy; or 1 customer per 100 square feet; with a maximum of 75 people indoors and 150 people outdoors. Operators must post their temporary occupancy limit, and which method was used to determine it, prominently on all entrances. Posting templates are available at accd.vermont.gov.
- Cashless/touch-less transactions are strongly preferred.
- Curbside pickup remains the preferred method of operation. When possible, organizations should take steps to schedule or stage customer visits, such as waiting in cars or outside, to ensure lower contact operations.
- Organizations should close or remove high touch entertainment features, including arcades and playgrounds.
- (as of 11/14/20) All businesses and organizations that serve the public and host organized non-essential activities (such as museums) shall maintain an easily accessible, legible log of all employees, customers, members and guests and their contact information, including name, address, phone number and email address for 30 days in the event contact tracing is required by VDH. For the sake of clarity, this requirement applies to all employees and all guests in every party.
Vermont is currently under a “Work Safe” mandate, including mandatory health and safety requirements, in addition to the above information. Some of the current guidelines & recommendations (especially if you are open to the public) include:
- No one can enter the building with symptoms of respiratory illness. Pre-screening and health survey shall be required to verify no symptoms of COVID-19. Temperature checks are encouraged.
- People must keep 6 feet apart as much as possible.
- Limit the use of common areas
- As of August 1, 2020, individuals are required to wear masks or cloth facial coverings over their nose and mouth any time they are in public spaces, indoors or outdoors, where they come in contact with others from outside their households, especially in congregate settings, and where it is not possible to maintain a physical distance of at least six feet.
- Hand washing and/or hand sanitizer must be easily available. Frequent hand washing/sanitizing is encouraged
- Regular cleaning of bathrooms, door handles, common areas, etc. is required.
- Signs must be posted at all entrances clearly indicating that no one may enter if they have symptoms of respiratory illness.
- All operations shall designate a health officer on-site at every shift responsible for ensuring compliance
- Complete & document mandatory VOSHA training for all staff/volunteers.
- Cross-state travel is limited and visitors from certain areas are under quarantine guidelines. Find the current map here: https://accd.vermont.gov/covid-19/restart/cross-state-travel [current as of 11/14/2020: all out-of-state visitors or Vermonters who return from visiting other states/countries must quarantine for 14 days or 7 days with a negative COVID test.]
View current requirements here: https://accd.vermont.gov/news/update-new-work-safe-additions-stay-home-stay-safe-order
- Overall health & safety of staff, volunteers, and patrons
- Changes or restrictions needed in your physical spaces to allow for safe staff/volunteer and/or public access.
- Communications within the organization and with patrons
- Continuing your mission
- Preservation of Collections
- Impacts on resources and funding
Questions to Ask About Reopening
- Who is involved in the decision-making process, and how are decisions being made?
- Can you safely, effectively, and within your available resources follow the mandated guidelines established by the state to be able to have staff and/or volunteers in your building(s)? or to be able to be open to the public? This may include but is not limited to:
- Restricted access for symptomatic or ill staff and patrons
- Physical distancing within office or collections spaces
- Physical distancing within public spaces, especially exhibit spaces
- Limitations on the number of people allowed in a space at one time
- Training for staff & volunteers
- Robust sanitation and cleaning protocols
- Availability of health, safety, & cleaning supplies
- Can you safely, effectively, and within your available resources follow any recommended guidelines established by the state and/or professional organizations as above?
- What modifications can you make to physical spaces, programs, or fundraising initiatives to make them safer and more accessible at this time?
- What is the general risk level to the virus for your staff/volunteers and patrons? How might that impact your reopening plans?
- What mission-based activities can be accomplished virtually and/or in a digital format, rather than in-person? What activities are unable to be completed digitally?
- How can you best plan on a short, medium, and long-term basis to be able to take into account changes in guidelines and the impact of the virus?
Resources Specifically for Museums & Collections
- Resources from the American Association for State & Local History, including sample reopening plans and webinars: https://aaslh.org/covid19/
- Resources from the American Alliance of Museums on preparing to Reopen: https://www.aam-us.org/programs/about-museums/preparing-to-reopen/
- Reopening Considerations-Oklahoma Museums Association https://nysmuseums.org/resources/Documents/Museum_Open_to_the_Public_Considerations_Final.pdf
- Collections Care & Conservation Resources: https://www.culturalheritage.org/resources/emergencies/collections-care-amid-covid-19
- NEMA Town Hall Discussion on Reopening Museums: https://youtu.be/Y0UykeQBc84
- Vermont Arts Council Q&A with State Epidemiologist: https://www.vermontartscouncil.org/covid-19/creative-sector-response-recovery/dr-kelso-1