How Museums Across Canada and Around the World Are Reopening During COVID-19

 July 30, 2020

Explore how museums, art galleries, and cultural organizations across Canada and around the world are reopening during the COVID-19 pandemic

Updated July 30, 2020

The Government of BC has announced that museums will be able to reopen in mid-May as part of the Province’s Restart Plan. Worksafe BC has published new guidelines for our sector to help employers ensure that sites are safe for returning workers and volunteers. Protocols for the Arts and Cultural facilities can be found here and protocols for offices can be found here.


The following case studies explore how different museums and cultural attractions from Canada and around the world are approaching reopening to the public. We do not endorse any of these examples or encourage organizations to emulate them, but present them as examples to take into consideration when developing your own reopening plans. As always, any reopening plans must reflect the Government of BC’s recommendations.

We also recognize that many of these case studies come from large organizations with substantial budgets. As examples emerge, we will update this section to ensure we provide ideas that are accessible to any museum. If you would like to share your organization’s reopening strategy, please email us

International Examples

The Brandenburg Museum Association, Germany

Brandenburg was the first of Germany’s 16 states to reopen museums to the public. The Brandenburg Museum Association established guidelines which include:

  • Constructing plexiglass shields for ticket counters
  • Accepting credit cards rather than cash payments
  • Supplying all staff with disinfectant materials
  • Frequent cleaning of the space
  • A limit of one visitor per 15-square meter (or 161-square-foot) area
  • Museums cannot offer group tours and should only provide audio guides if they can be carefully disinfected after each use

The full list of recommendations from the Brandenburg Museum Association can be found here, though the document is in German.

Reopening Policies from Museums in China

Shanghai was the first Chinese province to allow museums to reopen to the public. Many Chinese museums are utilizing technology and enhanced hygienic measures, which include:

  • Requiring all visitors to wear face masks
  • Limiting visitors to 50% of the site’s pre-COVID capacity
  • In China, information about the health and movements of citizens is used to issue a personal QR code. Once “green”, people are allowed to move freely. In order to reserve an entry time at a museum, individuals must make a declaration of clean health, i.e. confirm they haven’t been to an affected area or in contact with an infected individual over the past 14 days
  • The museum QR code system currently being adopted in China asks individuals to give their health status, name, contact information, and national ID number, before selecting visit time. This ensures museums do not become crowded as visits can be distributed evenly
  • In China, participating museums are all listed in a centralized ticket booking system

The National Archives (UK)

In the United Kingdom, the National Archive has posted principles and operational factors that heritage organizations should consider when planning to reopen. Their recommendations largely mirror those put forward by the BCMA.

  • Follow the Provincial Health Officer’s direction.
  • Provide PPE for staff and visitors.
  • Deep clean and continue to clean all areas.
  • Consider staff working remotely.
  • Allow for more staff or volunteers supporting visitor traffic and make them visible.
  • Allow visitors to book tickets online if possible, even if the facility is free.
  • Allow ‘visitor slots’ for the vulnerable.
  • Introduce new information signage systems.
  • Allow set number of visitors and at larger museums at the entrance of each space or room.
    Most suggest: 20 square meters per person.
  • If your budget allows, try using an audiovisual in the foyer to inform the public.
  • Consider visitor registration and contact tracing measures at the entrances and admission points.
  • Consider obtaining visitors’ and participants’ travel and health declarations and turning away visitors and participants who have been to areas with a widespread outbreak in the last 14 days.
  • Suspend all venue-hire type events to end of the year.
  • Suspend programs and events targeted at senior citizens and other vulnerable groups.
  • Suspend all guided tours to end of year.
  • Use floor markers (or other forms of barricades) to guide visitors
  • In a theatre operation, have visitors sit on alternate seats and on alternate rows, i.e. checker-board seating (for seated events and dining establishments within venues).
  • Consider implementing flexible working arrangements.

ICOM Brazil

“The Activities Return Plan should be discussed with the entire team, defining the actions that precede the opening to the public; Based on the WHO guidelines, protocols for the prevention of contagion (such as measuring body temperature and wearing masks), limiting people in closed spaces, cleaning and organizing exhibition, consultation and research spaces should be discussed;

It is important to evaluate the effectiveness of circulation and air renewal in spaces with mechanical ventilation; Act together with the community in the process of opening, disseminating and recomposing institutional routines”.

Museum Next

“How Might Museums Look Different When They Reopen After Coronavirus? Ideas for ticketed entry, plexiglass dividers, interactives, special hours for vulnerable groups, and more.”

American Alliance of Museums

Canadian Examples


The Canadian Arts Museums Directors Organization/Organisation des directeurs des musées d’art Canadiens has drafted preliminary guidelines for reopening art museums. Their guidelines provide detailed and actionable recommendations for visitor management, health standards, and communicating with the public.

Association of Manitoba Museums 

AAM recommends the following measures:

  • High-touch displays must remain closed.
  • Online ticket sales are used where possible.
  • Staff and patrons use the self-screening tool before attending.
  • Employees must stay home if ill with COVID-19 symptoms.
  • Organizations must post external signs indicating COVID-19 physical distancing protocols.
  • Staff are given information about physical distancing and floor markings are installed where service is offered or lines form.
  • Entry into venues including lines are regulated to prevent congestion.
  • Organizations must maintain a single point of entry.
  • Hand sanitizer must be available at entrances and exits for public and staff use.
  • Washrooms must have frequent sanitization and a regime for business sanitization is in place.
  • Both staff and patrons may wear non-medical masks.
  • Cashless or no-contact payment be used to the greatest extent possible.
  • Sites can use outdoor space to allow for physical distancing.
  • Sites may adjust to allow for self-guided tours or app-based self-guided tours instead of using shared headsets or live guides.

Museums Association of Saskatchewan, Considerations When Re-Opening Museums

Considerations When Re-Opening Museums endeavours to outline in board terms the four stages of re-opening museums to the public and encouraging museums to think through what each step will mean for them.



British Columbia