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Arts & Culture

COVID & the Arts: Family Museum Closing for Two Weeks

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Family Museum
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The Family Museum in Bettendorf, will save about $300,000 by closing for two weeks this month, furloughing its staff, and leaving nine open jobs unfilled, along with other budget cuts.

The city-owned museum – which re-opened May 22 after closing for nine weeks due to Covid-19 -- will be closed Aug. 9-23, due to a drop in attendance and revenue since re-opening. The decision by director Kim Kidwell was made with guidance from Bettendorf city administration and finance department, to help ensure the future of museum programs and activities.

“Just looking at our recent numbers and trends of children’s museums and cultural institutions in this climate, I really wanted to plan ahead for this fiscal year. We started our new fiscal year here July 1 st and after the reopening May 22, we just really haven’t seen attendance we thought we were going to see. I guess we weren’t really sure what to expect.”

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Credit Family Museum
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Family Museum Director Kim Kidwell

Kidwell says since re-opening, attendance at the museum has been only about 25 percent of normal,  with over 80 percent of that members, who get in free. And she’s seen similar attendance trends in museums throughout Iowa and the nation.

The Family Museum used the two-month closing in the spring to clean the facility, do needed renovations, and train staff in disinfecting and safety guidelines. Props like plastic phones and cups that kids would use were removed, and remaining items are rotated and cleaned constantly.

The museum initially limited guests to 75 at a time. And beginning July 23, masks have been required for all visitors and class attendees age 10 and up. Masks are also strongly encouraged for children 2-10, but not required. Masks for those who do not have one are available at the Welcome Desk. Now, up to 150 guests will be permitted in the museum at any given time. 

She says the museum staff has been wearing masks, but the city felt at first after re-opening, that it was not their place require masks to visit city facilities. But with the recent uptick in Scott County cases since the full reopening this summer, they thought seeing as how the library and museum gets the most outside public visitors, that would be a good thing to put in place, to make people feel safer.

“It’s a constant struggle; we want our families to be safe. We don’t want them to come here if they don’t feel safe. I completely understand that. Maybe we can do some things to help people feel safer when they come.”

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The revenue loss has hit the museum hard from all angles, Kidwell says, including programs, field trips, and outreach to schools, which will be affected this fall. And Kidwell plans to cancel well-attended signature events this year, such as Scarecrow Shenanigans, Winterfest, and Noon Year’s Eve.

“We are the highest revenue source, enterprise fund for the city, and so when those revenue sources aren’t coming in, that poses to be the biggest problem.”

The museum will leave nine open positions unfilled – including five part-time seasonal staff (mainly college students leaving after the summer); social media/events coordinator, front desk, and two educators. It will have 24 employees remaining, and the museum also will close on Sundays following the two-week shutdown, partly since attendance has been low those days.

“Our staff is a dedicated, passionate bunch of people who love what they do, love the Family Museum. I’ve been lucky they’ve been willing to step up and do different things.”

 
The Family Museum hopes to save $300,000 altogether, with the two-week furlough, hiring freeze, and cutting purchase of supplies, staff travel, training, and advertising. 

For more information on museum programs visit familymuseum.org.