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COVID & the Arts: Museums Begin to Re-open

Family Museum
the Family Museum in Bettendorf

The Family Museum in Bettendorf and the Figge Art Museum in Davenport have taken different approaches to re-opening after shutdowns caused by Covid-19.

Credit Family Museum
Kim Kidwell, Director of the Family Museum

Since Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds allowed museums to re-open on May 22nd, the Family Museum opened that day, while the Figge won't re-open until June 9th, following a members-only opening on June 6th and 7th. 

Kim Kidwell, Director of the Family Museum, used the two-month closure to clean the facility completely, do needed renovations, and train staff in disinfection and safety.

“We have been getting ready to reopen, pretty much over the last month. There have been countless, endless webinars, Zoom meetings, between children’s museums all over the country, pretty much daily. It was all talking about the best practices. As children’s museums, obviously we are all hands-on. Kids like to touch everything. They like to put everything in their mouths."

“They don’t like to wear masks; you can’t make a two-year-old put a mask on.”

Props like plastic phones and cups that kids would use have been removed, and remaining items will be rotated and cleaned constantly. All staff wear masks and parents are encouraged, but not required to. Kidwell says the Family Museum is limiting visitors to 75 at a time, and since the May 22nd opening, families have been good about social distancing, health guidelines are posted, and there’s plenty of hand sanitizer available. 

On May 23rd, a total of 90 people came to the museum, compared with to 200-300 on a typical Saturday in the past. 

“When we opened on Friday, we had a line of 15 to 20 people coming in, which was really exciting. Working at a children’s museum, all our staff is, obviously, dealing with families and kids all the time, so we were very excited to see children again here."

“It’s been really strange working at the museum with no children here for a couple of months. It was really exciting. Parents were very grateful that we were opening and happy about all the cleaning and procedures we had taken to make it safe.”

Credit Figge Art Museum
Michelle Hargrave, Executive Director of the Figge Art Museum

Unlike the Family Museum, the Figge Art Museum will require advance reservations to visit, with free admission during the month of June, according to Executive Director Michelle Hargrave.

“We’re excited to welcome the public back through our doors in June. The museum has made health and safety a top priority, and the Figge team has spent the past month creating site-specific plans to safeguard our visitors and staff upon our reopening.

Credit Figge Art Museum
the Tiffany Window, from the Denkmann Family, at the Figge

“This reopening will happen in phases. At this time, we will limit the number of visitors allowed in the museum, and we will close for short windows of time throughout the day to allow for thorough cleaning and disinfecting.”

Museum hours have been adjusted so it now opens from 11 am to 5 pm Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. And 11-8:30 pm on Thursdays. Reservations are available for 90-minute slots at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. or 3 p.m. on Tuesday-Friday, with the 11 a.m. slot reserved for the those who are vulnerable or at high risk from COVID-19. On Thursdays there will also be a 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. slot available for all. About 100 people maximum will be allowed at a time, and during June the Figge Café, Family Activity Center, and the interactive Studio One space will all be closed.

“We can certainly serve far more than that even adhering to the governor's recommendations. But we want to test things out, see how things go, and be cautious and conservative at the beginning.” 

All staff and visitors, over the age of three, will be required to wear masks in the building. Signs will be posted throughout the Figge to remind visitors to socially distance during their visit. Extra hand sanitizing stations will be available throughout the museum.

Reservations can be made at figgeartmuseum.org or by calling 563-345-6632.

Formerly the arts and entertainment reporter for The Dispatch/Rock Island Argus and Quad-City Times, Jonathan Turner now writes freelance for WVIK and QuadCities.com. He has experience writing for daily newspapers for 32 years and has expertise across a wide range of subject areas, including government, politics, education, the arts, economic development, historic preservation, business, and tourism. He loves writing about music and the arts, as well as a multitude of other topics including features on interesting people, places, and organizations. He has a passion for accompanying musicals, singers, choirs, and instrumentalists. He even wrote his own musical based on The Book of Job, which premiered at Playcrafters in 2010. He wrote a 175-page history book about downtown Davenport, which was published by The History Press in 2016. Turner was honored in 2009 to be among 24 arts journalists nationwide to take part in a 10-day fellowship offered by the National Endowment for the Arts in New York City on classical music and opera, based at Columbia University’s journalism school.