After three months in lockdown, Museum to welcome back guests

It’s been three months since Queensland Museum was forced to close to the public due to COVID-19 restrictions, but the South Brisbane campus – including SparkLab and Sciencentre – will reopen to the public this week.

Jun 22, 2020, updated Jun 22, 2020
Queensland Museum Network chief executive Dr Jim Thompson.

Queensland Museum Network chief executive Dr Jim Thompson.

The museum will be reopening to annual pass-holders from today until Wednesday, with a wider opening for the general public from Thursday. Entry will be free, but visitors must book online for a timed session through the Queensland Museum’s website.

Queensland Museum Network chief executive Dr Jim Thompson told InQueensland staff were looking forward to reopening and stressed ensuring the health and safety of visitors was his paramount concern.

“It’s been a long closure period, it will be three months almost to the day when we reopen – even after the floods it was only six weeks, so we’re getting excited to reopen to the public,” Thompson said.

“We’ve developed a COVID-safe plan in line with the Queensland Government’s directions and we’re still working with Queensland Health to finalise that.

“It’s really about control of numbers, the control of people’s movement within the museum – so one way in, one way out, because the museum’s usually a place where you can walk any way you like.  And it is about getting contact details, the cleaning regimens, provision of sanitisers and even some changed layouts, to stop people cramming in to certain areas.

“We’re actually opening with free timed ticket sessions, so we’re going to have sessions where we’ll only let a certain number of people in and it’s free, but they’ll need to book online for a ticket and we’ll work on that until we see that we don’t need to do that anymore.”

Thompson said the Workshops Rail Museum at Ipswich and Toowoomba’s Cobb+Co Museum had also now reopened to the public, but Townsville’s Museum of Tropical Queensland, which is currently undergoing renovations to repair damage caused during last year’s floods, would remain closed until January 2021.

He admitted some planned events – notably the Qantas Centenary exhibition – would not be able to proceed as originally planned this year, but was quick to assure many old favourites would be on display when doors reopen.

“We’ll obviously have our dinosaur area open, the dinosaurs are always a much-loved part of the museum and they tell a specific story about our old wildlife, and we have the Discovery Centre and the Wild State area, which really describe Australia’s wildlife in a unique way, particularly the Discovery Centre, which is interactive and hands-on.

“Then we have the fairly new gallery, The ANZAC Legacy Gallery, which is a permanent exhibition and it’s about the impacts of the war and how that led to changes within Queensland. it’s a really important celebration put in for the 100 years since the First World War and it’s a remarkable story of how Queensland changed in that period and the legacies of that.”

Thompson said the success of the Queensland Museum at Home program, which QM launched soon after having to temporarily close its physical campuses, had proven to be so successful that it would remain an ongoing and ever-growing component of the network’s offerings.

“The Queensland Museum at Home website put a strong focus into our digital and online content and that really is a permanent change for us, I think,” he said, revealing more the site has had visitors from more than 90 countries.

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“But what people like about museums is going and looking at things and being able to see the real objects and that will never go away.”

Thompson said one of the biggest challenges had been figuring out how to ensure the Sciencentre would be a safe destination visitors, due to its interactive and hands-on nature, but he said

“The Sciencentre has been re-established, we redid it about two years ago but it is very interactive and very hands-on.  We’ve used examples from other museums around the world and in Australia, where we’ve categorised all of our interactive exhibits a scale of one to five, a scale of five means the level of interaction is so high that really, at this time, we can’t have those open.

“There are not many of those interactives – we’re going to close down a few of them – but the others we’ve just put in different programs and regimens of cleaning, maybe slightly different ways of operating them.”

Thompson said he was pleased the museum would be able to return to doing what it does best – educating and educating Queenslanders about the state’s history and cultural identity.

“We’re a natural and cultural history museum at our heart, that’s what we started as 160 years ago in Queensland, which means we’re describing the natural history and biodiversity of this state and describing the cultural history of this state, from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander times, right through to now.

“There has been a view that the return to places like museums, where there are mass gatherings of people, will be slow, because people are going to be a bit reticent to get back out into public spaces, but we’re seeing some incredible results from around Australia and the world where people are coming back quite quickly.

“We’re very experienced with dealing with people, obviously, we do it all the time, so having crowds come in is not something that bothers us, but we want to make sure we can operate within a very responsible way and make sure that people feel safe.”

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