Arts & Culture, Arts & Culture, COVID-19

Know Before You Go: A Museum Worker’s Guide to Visiting Art Museums in a Pandemic

An examination of post-vaccine museum etiquette from an insider’s perspective


art by Syd Dillard

As museums reopen and vaccines get distributed, our attitudes about going out to art museums are becoming more relaxed. While this is an exciting time, it is important to remember that we are not yet living in a post-pandemic world.

Most museum workers are not vaccinated yet. Most of Boston’s finest art institutions have not, and will not, take it upon themselves to get their front line employees vaccinated. Just because these institutions are open to the public does not mean the employees feel safe being there.

Think about it: these stressed out, knowledgeable cherubs of art guardianhood are already on edge about you being too close to the Matisse. Do you think they are ready for galleries full of vaccinated, carefree individuals whispering art quarries into their ears? Don’t get me wrong, they love questions. It’s just that they’d prefer the questions be asked from six feet away.

Know that if you are vaccinated, you can still carry the virus and get others in the galleries sick, especially our beloved, underpaid docents.

With that said, I offer a reminder that a museum is not a sacred space. It is not a church in the Vatican that requires respectful silence. It is ok to ask questions at a normal volume. Louis Borgeois (may she rest in peace) will not be offended, and the workers will thank you for it.

Lastly, I’ll let you in on a little secret. Many Boston museums are cutting shifts and continuing a hiring freeze while attempting to operate like they used to. This means that fewer employees are able to keep an eye on things during crowded weekends and busy weeknights.

So, if you’re sauntering by a Boston museum and decide to go in, I’m all for it on a quiet weekday. If it’s a weekend, people are probably not distancing themselves, and I’m willing to bet the museum’s employees are feeling anxious and claustrophobic.

And please, for the love of fine art and museum worker safety, don’t go to a museum if you have just gotten off a plane or are waiting on a covid test result.


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