On June 17, both the University of Michigan Museum of Art (UMMA), located at 525 S State St., and the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology, located at 434 S State St., will fully reopen for the first time since March 2020. As two of the University’s most highly visited attractions, their complete reopenings will provide Ann Arbor with hands-on learning and exploration once again. Although both museums will be available to anyone interested in visiting, there will still be some public health restrictions in place.
For both museums:
- Pre-scheduled reservations will be required for all visitors, free of charge.
- Guests will be required to complete the ResponsiBlue Health Check before entering. For guests without cell phones, a verbal equivalent will be available.
- Masks will be required for all guests, regardless of vaccination status.
For the UMMA:
- Recommended paths to explore the museum to encourage social distancing and decrease traffic will be mapped out on the UMMA’s floors.
For the Kelsey Museum:
- The museum will be sanitized mid-day every day.
- Museum activities such as scavenger hunts and gallery guides will be printed on single-use materials.
- Social distancing is required and will be enforced.
Christopher Ankney, director of Public Relations for the UMMA, said the museum’s staff are excited and ready to open their doors once again.
“I’ve gone (to UMMA) a few times, and the people I see there who have been working in the museum are just excited to see someone,” Ankney said. “So I’m sure that for them, having life in the building again is going to be really invigorating and energizing. We’re just really looking forward to it.”
According to Ankney, the UMMA is more than just an art museum; it’s a place where people of Ann Arbor and the surrounding community can collect their thoughts and connect with one another, an opportunity which has surely been absent during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“That is important to (the Ann Arbor) community — the connections between yourself and a piece of art, or yourself and fellow visitors of the museum,” Ankney stated. “We’re at a place about connections and I think for the last 16 months with quarantine and restrictions in place, the available space for those types of interactions and engagements with ourselves and with other people have not been as readily possible.”
Although the Kelsey Museum has been open to the U-M community since May 6, executive director Dawn Johnson said her staff are eager to welcome the entire public back.
“Everyone’s really excited to move back in,” Johnson said. “We’ve done a lot of online education and training, so it’ll be wonderful to have a public aspect and have people back in the galleries with the collection again, because that’s what we do.”
In addition to the emotional connections made at cultural hubs like the Kelsey, Johnson said physically interacting with the objects on display and the space is what truly makes the museum experience meaningful.
“(Kelsey allows visitors) to have direct contact with the objects, you know, and with that connection (they are) able to move through these different civilizations and experience different kinds of lives,” Johnson said. “These interactions are very different online, and these original physical objects and teaching from those objects is critical to our mission.”
The two museums alone typically bring in thousands of students, residents, faculty and tourists every year. Many students and faculty involved with LSA’s Museum Studies program have especially missed having the museums integrated within their curriculum.
Deirdre L.C. Hennebury, the associate director of the Museum Studies Department and professor, said while students have lost the experience of exploring the physical museum spaces, they have also gained new understandings of museum operations and their societal significance.
“Most significantly, the social aspects of museum visits have been altered; the community of museum users has been dispersed,” Hennebury said. “Even with these losses in mind, we can recognize that we’ve gained new skills and areas of expertise that enrich our understanding of museums and the work they do in their communities.”
Considering the surrounding Ann Arbor community, Hennebury said these museums spark meaningful dialogue across the city and serve as a space to explore the progress the University is making everyday.
“The campus museums are also unique portals through which students and city residents can explore and participate in the research that takes place on campus,” Hennebury said. “The reopenings mark important steps in reclaiming these benefits and, psychologically, to a feeling of a return to normalcy.”
Daily Staff Reporter Emily Blumberg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org