Safety protocals are in place for museum visitors
By Deb Silverthorn
An opening, a closing and a reopening 11 months later — quite an eventful year it has been for the Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum.
The museum reopened after five months of a coronavirus-induced closure last week, with leadership eager to continue the work of fighting hate, intolerance and injustice.
“We are so happy to welcome guests back into the Museum, which we open with confidence in the safety we are providing and the content and tremendous experiences our guests will enjoy,” said Mary Pat Higgins, Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum president and CEO.
“The thanks we’ve received from around the world for our virtual programs has been incredible and we’ll continue to offer those virtually, for now, but we are certainly happy to welcome guests back, in person, to tour our exhibitions.”
Higgins said that during the closure, she continued to be impressed by the dedication of the museum’s staff.
“While I knew they were incredible, I learned in these months how outstanding our team is, how committed to our mission they are and how deeply they care to share it,” said Higgins. “The new and innovative programming we created, much of which will continue online, was born of sheer dedication.”
The 55,000-square-foot museum is open Wednesdays through Sundays, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m, with members and guests 55 and older allowed access on Fridays beginning at 9 a.m. Museum capacity is now limited to 25% and visitors must purchase or reserve tickets online to facilitate touchless payment and to ensure space availability.
Face coverings are required for all guests over age 2, but they may be removed in outdoor spaces. Staff members are required to have their temperature taken daily; various shields, hand sanitizer stations and bleach wipe dispensers have been added throughout the museum; and, as necessary, areas have been modified to allow for social distancing.
Special attention is being paid to high-touch areas, cleaning has increased and the auditorium has reduced capacity from 250 to 50, with every other row occupied.
While many exhibits with interactive elements have been disabled, many others have been redesigned for interaction with a smartphone or a disposable stylus.
Like many nonprofit and cultural institutions, the museum felt the financial strain. It was able to retain full-time employees, with many taking reductions in salary. Part-time workers, whose work giving tours could not be replicated at home, were furloughed.
Still, a combination of vastly reduced revenue and increased virtual programming was challenging.
“While it was frustrating for the museum to be closed with so much going on in the world that connects directly to our mission, Mary Pat and her staff have done a miraculous job of presenting a full and expanded online schedule,” said Frank Risch, DHHRM board chair. “They enabled us to continue to pursue the mission of the museum, presenting the lessons of the Holocaust and their implications for the human rights conditions in our world today and indeed in our own community.”
The museum, with a membership of more than 3,500, served the community during its closure with numerous online activities, tours and exhibits. Museum memberships are being extended for time lost and members who renew are receiving a complimentary upgrade to the next tier of benefits.
“We’re grateful to our donors for their continued support, during these uncertain times. I can’t overstate our appreciation for them standing by us, ensuring we can survive — and thrive — to fulfill our mission,” said Higgins.
Among the first visitors after reopening were members of the Hoffman family of Dallas. “Our family thoroughly enjoyed our visit to the museum and its local flair, with the influence of so many from our community, which is very special,” said Michael Hoffman, who toured the museum, for the first time, with his wife Jackie and sons Aaron and Jake. “The hologram chat with Max Glauben and the photos and artifacts in the civil rights exhibition are incredible. We were impressed with all of the precautions and the museum itself is beautiful.”
For ticket purchase and more information about the Museum’s continued online programming, visit dhhrm.org.