Local museums were finally able to reopen after nearly six months of closure as a result of COVID-19 restrictions. The news couldn’t come soon enough for many of them.
Two-thirds of the Bellamy Mansion Museum’s revenue comes from people visiting the landmark, “so this is a huge deal to get people through the front doors,” Bellamy Mansion Executive Director Gareth Evans said.
“We’ve been doing our online programming, but getting back to what we do, giving people tours and teaching them about history, that’s what we do and why we’re here.”
The museum organized volunteers to go over the reopening plan, emphasizing safety protocols. Those protocols include limiting the number of visitors inside, masking, sanitizing and keeping social distance.
“Businesses have been doing this for some time, so it’s good that we are getting to do it now too,” Evans said.
The Wilmington Railroad Museum was the “first museum in Wilmington proper to open, and it went wonderfully,” according to Executive Director Holli Saperstein.
Volunteers and its board of directors rallied to finish projects, clean and sanitize in preparation for the opening weekend. The museum reopened its doors on the Saturday of Labor Day weekend.
“It was such a pleasure. Everybody was so good about masks and all used the sanitizing stations. Everyone followed the protocol,” Saperstein said.
The first weekend welcomed 87 guests, following the state mandate of half capacity, which will continue to affect the pandemic’s overall financial impact on the museum.
“We can only take 50% of our normal traffic and it will still be a while before we can break even,” Saperstein said. “There’s no making up for lost time. It is just devastating to lose 90% of our income.”
Saperstein explained how they are continuing to apply for grants and look for other ways to sustain the museum. She said she hopes that people will take advantage of the museum for homeschool lessons.
“I hope people are anxious to get out of the house and use this as a great opportunity to take kids out of the house and learn about transportation,” Saperstein said.
The N.C. Aquarium at Fort Fisher opened Sept. 14 with a few changes to protect the health and safety of visitors and staff.
“We can’t wait to do what we do best, which is to share the truly astounding animals and habitats we care for,” said Maylon White, director for the N.C. Aquariums Division, in a news release announcing the reopening.
To adhere to the new safety measures, the aquarium admission will be available online only at ncaquariums. com, and guests will reserve their tickets for specific arrival times.
“This will allow the aquariums to best provide a safe and enjoyable visit by reducing overall building capacity,” the release said. “Also in accordance with Executive Order 163, both guests and employees will need to wear face coverings and maintain social distancing.”