State museums, historic sites reopen doors to visitors
Operations resume today at 25% capacity
Eight state museums and seven historic sites are expected to reopen Thursday.
The facilities — which include the New Mexico Museum of Art, the New Mexico History Museum/Palace of the Governors, the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture and the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe — were closed to the public March 16 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The state’s current public health order permits them to resume operations at 25 percent capacity.
“It’s been an unusual circumstance, that’s for sure,” said Mark White, executive director of the Museum of Art. “But we’re very excited to be able to open the building to the public. The situation isn’t going to change for the majority of staff, however. We’ll continue to telework for the foreseeable future.”
The Museum of Art was closed to 16 members of its staff with the exception of security, who have been maintaining the facility, said White, who has been working with the Department of Cultural Affairs on a reopening plan since July.
“We have a number of exhibitions that we opened in the spring that really didn’t get their due because we were forced to close,” he said.
One of those exhibits is The birth, death and resurrection of Christ: from Michelangelo to Tiepolo, a traveling show from the British Museum in London. Visitors will have four more days to view the exhibition, which runs through Sunday.
The reopening of state museums and monuments follows Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s Aug. 27 easing of restrictions on facilities with static displays.
But they must maintain COVID-19-safe operating procedures. Face coverings are required for all visitors.
Some areas, including theaters, classrooms, libraries, collections storage and picnic or snack areas, will remain closed or have limited access. Rental equipment, such as headsets, as well as coat checks, lockers and other storage for personal items are not allowed, except when required for compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The Museum of International Folk Art looped all content on its iPad devices so visitors won’t have to start and stop them manually, and it removed all of its interactive displays to prevent contamination.
“We can’t wait to install those again because interactives are some of our favorite things,” said Khristaan Villela, executive director of the museum. “We have high hopes that we’ll
be able to get up to full speed again with all of our content before too long.”
All museums and historic sites will operate on a modified 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. schedule to allow additional time for cleaning and sanitizing. A 10 a.m.-to-noon slot on Wednesdays is reserved for higher-risk populations. Group visits, public programs and special events are restricted to virtual formats only.
The public is encouraged to visit each facility’s website or call to confirm days and hours of operation, but advance and timed ticketing options are not an option, even for the Santa Fe museums.
“Even at 25 percent capacity, given our usual hourly attendance, we should be able to welcome anyone who comes to the door,” White said. “That is something that the Department of Cultural Affairs is still working on and, hopefully, will be available in all our museums fairly soon.”