After having to close due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Cincinnati-area museums are planning their reopening dates for the coming weeks and months, with additional precautions to keep visitors and staff healthy.
At the Cincinnati Museum Center, which will reopen on July 17, staff are adjusting the museum experience to be safer, without taking away from its educational impact. Along with capacity control and asking visitors to wear masks and maintain social distance, the museum has been looking into new ways to make sure that the exhibits are still interactive while staying low-contact.
“We have built a museum over the years that is very high-touch,” says Cody Hefner, the center’s senior director of marketing and communications. “Push this button, manipulate this map, here’s another touchscreen and this and that.” Hefner says now they have been looking into low-contact options like using a phone app or foot buttons to safely interact with exhibits.
While the pandemic has forced almost everyone to make serious changes, the museums are still focusing on creating a safe, educational environment. “When people come back, it’s going to be a little bit of a different experience,” Hefner says. “But we hope it’s still impactful.”
At the Cincinnati Art Museum, staff have been eagerly waiting to reopen as well. According to Jill Dunne, director of marketing and communications, this is the longest period of time the art museum has ever been closed since it opened its doors in 1886. The museum opened on June 18 for members and June 20 for general admission, with added precautions tailored for the art museum experience.
“I think we’re really lucky that people aren’t supposed to touch the artwork anyway,” Dunne says. “It shouldn’t vary that greatly from times in the past.”
Visitors will be asked to wear masks and maintain a safe social distance from each other, and all tours will be self-guided. The museum will also still be free to enter, but visitors will be asked to reserve a time for their ticket online to control the size of crowds.
After a member-exclusive opening on July 10, the Taft Museum of Art will open to ticketholders on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. The museum will keep a limited capacity through timed tickets and will offer exclusive hours to visitors who are at a higher risk of infection. Face coverings will be required on museum property for both employees and visitors.
Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden opened to members with reservations on June 10 and expanded to general admission ticketholders with reservations on June 17. The zoo is keeping its workers and visitors at a safe distance by reducing capacity by 50 to 75 percent. Face coverings are mandatory for zoo employees and are recommended for visitors.
Newport Aquarium reopened to the annual passholders June 22 and will extend the reopening to the general public on June 25. Guests will be able to experience the aquarium’s new exhibit Shipwreck: Realm of the Eels—featuring green moray eels swimming among the ancient remains of a sunken ship—which debuted just 10 days before it closed in March due to COVID-19.
To keep visitors and staff safe, the aquarium requires reservations due to its reduced hourly capacity. Guests will be screened upon entrance with a touchless thermometer, and all visitors over the age of 3 are required to wear masks. Some interactive and animal touch experiences will remain temporarily closed.
Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal, 1301 Western Ave., Queensgate, (513) 287-7000
Cincinnati Art Museum, 953 Eden Park Dr., Mt. Adams, (513) 721-2787
Taft Museum of Art, 316 Pike St., Cincinnati, 513-241-0343
Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, 3400 Vine St., Avondale, (513) 281-4700
Newport Aquarium, 1 Levee Way, Newport, 1 (800) 406-3474