It's been a strange few months and it's taken a lot of preparation, but the museum is finally set to open for the remainder of the season on Monday.
Although museums in Scotland were allowed to resume business from the 15th July, we made the decision not to open immediately but rather to hold off until August. This was for a couple of reasons. Obviously, it gave us a bit more time to prepare, to see how other museums were operating and to get more of a handle on the guidelines; but more importantly it allowed our communities to get used to tourists arriving in Glencoe again before we began actively encouraging visitors to the village. We spoke to the local Community Council and assured them that we would not open until the community felt comfortable with us doing so.
One of the biggest challenges for us in preparing to reopen has been space. Obviously, our tiny little cottages were not built with physical distancing in mind, so we will be operating a one-way system around the museum and limiting the number of groups in at one time. We will also have waiting areas dotted around the grounds, where visitors can stand a safe distance away from doorways and exhibitions while waiting for other groups to move on. Our cottage floors are made of slate, so we knew that we wouldn’t be able to use stickers for signs, but one of our trustees came up with the idea of using chalk spray paint, and we were able to find some stencils. This means that no damage will be done to our beautiful flagstones, and we can use the stencils on our outdoor areas as well.
We have installed hand sanitisers at the front desk and next to our gift shop, and will be asking visitors to make use of these upon entry. We wanted to shop local as much as possible, so we bought our sanitiser from the local gin distillery. We love the bottles, and it smells a little bit like gin! We have perspex screens at our front desk and will also be making face coverings mandatory inside our main building in order to protect staff and other visitors. We will be cleaning the front desk and other “touch points” regularly, and unfortunately have had to remove our children’s dressing up box, colouring sheets and handling objects from around the museum for now.
Our museum operates on a very small scale compared to many other Highland museums, which can be both a blessing and a curse. On the cons side, we had only one member of staff to work on reopening (myself – our Redevelopment Manager was furloughed). But to balance this, it has meant that there has probably been less for us to worry about. For example: we have no toilets or interactives so don’t have to worry about cleaning those; our museum is small but it is mostly open plan, making one way systems simple and ensuring good ventilation; we have relatively low numbers of daily visitors, so should be able to operate without a ticketing system (though we may begin asking people to pre-book slots if we turn out to be busy!); and as we only need one member of staff in the building at a time we will be able to open our full hours despite most of our front-of-house volunteers understandably choosing not to help out this season.
We feel that we have done all that we can for now, and though we are excited for visitors to finally be able to see our new displays this year, we are also nervous about how it will work. We are planning to be flexible and to continue to make changes as and when they are needed – for example, we may need to close outbuildings if we become too busy.
We just hope that all our visitors will be patient with us as we find our feet! We look forward to welcoming you back to the museum soon.