Local museums facing new challenges and finding creative solutions amid COVID-19

SALISBURY, Md. – Local museums say that they’re thinking of creative ways to keep visitors engaged and connected with history and culture. But of course, that comes with challenges. “We had to just completely re-imagine programming and we switched to doing a lot of virtual content,” said Executive Director of the Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art Kristin Sullivan.

Curator for the Poplar Hill Mansion Sarah Myers says that the toughest issues to tackle include completely rethinking how they can offer programming to visitors. She also says that making sure they have enough funding to keep their doors open is a key issue. “When we’ve had to cancel all of these events it impacts our fundraising. It impacts what we are able to do,” said Myers.

Sullivan says that at the Ward Museum, they’re using this experience as a learning opportunity. “As hard as it’s been trying to overturn everything and start from scratch in some ways, it’s great because it’s caused us to think outside the box and do some things that we probably wouldn’t have had time or resources or energy to do otherwise,” said Sullivan.

At the Poplar Hill Mansion, they’ve had to limit the number of guests in the museum at one time, require face coverings, and social distance while visiting. Plus – Myers says that in a historic home, disinfecting surfaces is a little bit more difficult than normal. “We’re a historic house, so wiping down a wooden historic handrail and making sure we’re not using over the counter harsh chemicals. I actually have to make my own mixture,” said Myers.

Myers says that one of the biggest challenges has been having to cancel fundraising events. “This is the 225th anniversary of the foundation being laid here at the house, and we had a big festival that’s actually won awards in the past. Our Poplar Hill Mansion Festival – we had to cancel that,” said Myers.

The Ward Museum is following similar precautions, and also screening guests for COVID-19 when they enter. Sullivan says that the biggest change has been re-imagining their programming and going virtual. But it’s opened up opportunities to reach and educate more people. “To be converting to outreach programming there is a major overhaul but we’re doing it and there’s some really interesting and innovative ideas coming out of that as well,” said Sullivan.

Sullivan says that some new programming is in the works for the Ward Museum. “That’s the sort of thing I see us doing more and more of – getting to know our communities and finding ways to support and highlight our communities,” said Sullivan.

Myers says that they’re working on a new exhibit that highlights what childhood was like in the 1800’s. She says the museum is also incorporating COVID-19 into their educational programming. That’s because first surgeon in Salisbury lived there, and he would have treated diseases in the past.

To get updates on the Poplar Hill Mansion, click here. For information on the Ward Museum, click here.

Categories: Coronavirus, Local News, Maryland