HASTINGS — After four months of being closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Hastings Museum has reopened to the public.
The museum reopened to members on June 30, while it reopened to the public Tuesday.
Museum director Becky Matticks said the museum wanted to gives its members “a perk” since they stuck with it during the pandemic and were supportive.
Marketing director Becky Tideman said there were a few visitors who signed up for a membership due to members being able to revisit the museum two weeks earlier than the public.
“We did not have to deal with admissions money right away, so that was easier on our staff,” Matticks said. “We practiced on them a little bit because we are disinfecting once or twice a day, depending on if we are open or if we are not open. That gave our staff the chance to get into the routine of disinfecting all the high-touch points.”
Matticks said the museum is “very excited” to reopen to the public because the last four months “have been so weird and lonely.” She said it feels good to have people in the museum again.
“We really missed people; it is what we do,” Matticks said. “Everybody goes home, maybe to the grocery store and then there is no fun or entertainment — something to fill the void — outside of your house. Now, we are back open again and hopefully we can provide that and give people a little more quality of life.”
Hastings Museum is open reduced hours: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday; and 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday.
The planetarium and The Nature Nook at the museum still are closed. The museum is also not showing Hollywood films in its Lied Super Screen Theatre. However, it is showing shorter, large-format documentary films “Back from the Brink” and “The Nature Makers” at 1 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. daily, respectively.
Matticks said planetarium shows will be done for a group upon request with 24 hours notice.
When museumgoers visit Hastings Museum, they will be required to wear a face mask. The number of visitors is limited to 100, plus employees. The Lied Super Screen Theatre is limited to 50 people.
“The restrictions are basically what the South Heartland District Health Department requires — like social distancing and washing your hands,” Matticks said. “We have hand sanitizers (stations) all throughout the building.”
Matticks and Tideman said the museum has a number of social distancing signs placed around the museum that tie into each of the exhibits.
Tideman said visitors are urged not to gather in groups and to limit them to eight or fewer people. However, she said, visitors are allowed to look at an exhibit or “talk to their little one” about an exhibit.
With Hastings Museum being a large museum, Tideman said it has “a lot of space” to allow people to social distance and is encouraging visitors to do so.
Each day the museum is open, she said, every museum staff member, regardless of their job, will disinfect areas of the museum.
Matticks said the museum has removed some hands-on items in the tepee, cabin and other exhibit areas as they are difficult to disinfect. She added plastic glass has been installed at the main desk area to protect museum staff.
Matticks said Hastings Museum received a grant for slightly more than $123,000 from the National Endowment for the Humanities that is being used to pay its staff and keep them employed. The museum also received just under $9,000 in grant funding from Humanities Nebraska for education and maintenance assistance.
Tideman said she does not want to rush anyone who is not comfortable visiting the museum right now, but said it wants to be there for those who are looking for something to do.
“Now, more than ever, people want to get out of their own space and there is so much to do, contemplate, learn about and escape with here at the museum with the different exhibits,” she said. “I would encourage people to take a break, be good to yourself and visit us.”
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