How do you adapt an interactive museum for families to function amid concerns about covid-19 exposure?
For the Scott Family Amazeum in Bentonville, the answers include regulated admission, a limited schedule that allows for an hour of cleaning for every two hours children are present, required masks, hand sanitizer stations -- and it doesn't hurt to have a slogan: "Be smart; play 6 feet apart."
The Amazeum announced July 14 that it would reopen under those conditions this weekend.
"The safety, health, and well-being of our members, guests and team are our top priority," spokesman Paul Stolt says. "Guests and members will be asked to enter and exit through designated doors and 'be smart; play 6 feet apart' when in the museum."
The museum's 50,000-square-foot exhibit space includes permanent exhibits like the 3M Tinkering Hub, Hershey's Lab, the Market sponsored by Walmart and General Mills Lift, Load & Haul. Having opened in January, shortly before the coronavirus crisis led to the Amazeum closing in mid-March, the temporary exhibit "Thomas & Friends: Explore the Rails" has been held over until September.
In the exhibit designed and developed by Minnesota Children's Museum, children can help Thomas and his friends solve a variety of challenges, from a simple sorting and shape identification activity to more complex engineering obstacles, such as completing a train track using track pieces with different levels of elevation.
With all that touching, "we modified and enhanced processes and procedures to maintain and sustain the high level of cleanliness our guests expect," Stolt says, while also following the guidance of local pediatricians, public health officials and the Centers for Disease Control.
The new admission process begins with reserving tickets for timed entry, allowing the Amazeum to limit the number of people sharing those interactive spaces at the same time. That's also how cleaning is scheduled. Hours will be Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 9 to 11 a.m.; noon to 2 p.m.; and 3 to 5 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 2 p.m. and 3 to 5 p.m., allowing an hour for cleaning every two hours. Hand sanitizing stations will also be provided.
Masks will be required both inside and outside for all employees, members and guests 10 and older. Children between the ages of 2 and 9 are encouraged to also wear masks, but there is no mask requirement for children younger than 2. If a guest does not have a face covering, one will be provided. Entry to the museum will be prohibited without face coverings, Stolt says.
Outdoors, visitors will be introduced to a new addition to the "PlayScape" called "Salvage Swings."
Designed by Arkansas-based Somewhere Studio lead architects Jessica Colangelo and Charles Sharpless and fabricated in the Fay Jones School of Architecture Fab Lab at the University of Arkansas, "Salvage Swings" consists of 12 modules constructed from shipping pallets salvaged during the construction of the Adohi Residence Hall on the University of Arkansas campus. Arranged into a triangular pavilion, each module contains an individual swing and frames a view of the landscape surrounding the Amazeum.
"Salvage Swings" will remain at the Amazeum indefinitely.
"Salvage Swings is a wonderful addition to our PlayScape," says Erik Smith, Amazeum director of exhibits and facilities. "It is playful, well-designed and illustrates how creativity applied to common materials results in unique objects."
Scott Family Amazeum
WHEN — Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 9 to 11 a.m.; noon to 2 p.m.; and 3 to 5 p.m.; and Sunday from noon to 2 p.m. and 3 to 5 p.m.
WHERE — 1009 Museum Way in Bentonville
COST — $10 for adults and children 2 and older
INFO — www.amazeum.org
FYI — The 9 to 11 a.m. time slots on Monday and Saturday will be reserved for Amazeum members. The Amazeum is closed on Tuesday.