With the pandemic raging across the world the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art closed its doors March 14 to protect both its workers and the people of Kansas City. The closure was temporary at first – only a week to stop the initial spread – but as the virus rampaged through the metro, it was extended. Now that the city-wide restrictions are being lessened the Nelson has slowly started reopening to the public.
The time during which the museum was closed was not wasted by the employees. A team of dedicated staff took up the challenge of starting to virtualize a visit to the museum to allow those who cannot visit in person to still experience the wonderful art. The Nelson also started to repave the area in front of the museum while there were no guests for optimal working conditions and so there was little to no inconvenience for anyone.
Starting Sept. 12, the museum opened up again to the public with some major changes to its operations. While it is still free, all patrons must visit the museum’s website and sign up for a timed visit. These tickets allow for adequate contract tracing in the event of a visitor contracting COVID-19.
Kathleen Leighton, Manager of Media Relations for the museum, said that the reason for doing these timed intervals is “to avoid a crush of people at any one time.”
To keep up with rigorous cleaning the museum has also changed its hours and is now closed on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Additionally, the museum and its staff are taking as many precautions as possible to protect patrons.
“Each employee and volunteer must take their temperature upon arriving at work, wear a mask at all times, and maintain [a] social distance of at least six feet. Our visitors must wear masks, maintain social distance, and procure timed tickets before coming. We have plenty of hand sanitizer available for our guests and our visitor service officers are watching to be sure no gallery gets too crowded,” Leighton said.
I visited the museum this past Sunday to see the changes for myself. The timed tickets limit the number of people admitted in at any time allowing for what feels like a private visit. The normally crowded gallery featuring Monet’s “Water Lilies” was populated by only myself and an employee. The exhibit featuring the “Mummy of Ka-i-nefer,” which is usually filled with noisy children, was once again lying in silence. As I wandered the large and mostly empty exhibits, the echoes of my steps filled the space accompanied by the quiet music played over the speakers.
The reactions of the employees and the visitors about the reopening of the museum have all been positive, according to Leighton.
“Employees are very excited that our doors are open once again and have told us they feel very safe in the environment provided by the museum. Visitors have been elated. One couple came into the museum and began to dance! Several others broke out into song. I think that tells you how much our guests missed the museum while we were closed,” said Leighton.
For those who wish to visit the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art now that it has reopened, head to their website to schedule your visit. If you want to experience the art while mitigating any risk, the sculpture park is open and the festivals – like the one celebrating Day of The Dead – have gone virtual until the pandemic is over.