Serena Barnett has been holding her “happy dance” for about six months now. But she’ll be doing it — at least in her mind — when the doors of the Rogers Historical Museum reopen to visitors at 10 a.m. Sept. 24.
Several things will be different when the doors do open, she admits.
“We will be open to the public with limited hours on Thursday, Friday and Saturday,” she begins. “We will also only be admitting a maximum of 18 visitors at a time to help with social distancing in the galleries. Only the museum galleries are going to be open for the time being. Touchable interactive areas, such as the Children’s Gallery and Grandma’s Attic, as well as the Research Library, are going to remain closed until further notice.”
Still, “we want to invite our visitors to see is all the changes we’ve made in our galleries,” she says. “Museum staff have been working hard these past six months behind closed doors to refresh and make additions to many of the displays.
“We’ve added a barn to the Natural State exhibit and expanded the Monte Ne exhibit,” she enumerates. “We’ve added some new objects in other areas of the gallery as well. You’ll just have to wait for when we reopen to see them for yourself!”
The Hawkins House will be closed to tours, but that is due to previously scheduled maintenance that is to begin by the end of the month, she says.
“Every 10 to 15 years, the house needs to have a fresh coat of paint and minor repairs tended to,” Barnett explains. “Beginning mid-September, we will be repainting both inside and outside. Much of the house is empty right now as we have begun removing the collection items in preparation for the upcoming work.”
Not everything that’s happened over the summer will be immediately visible, she adds.
“Collections staff have been busy digitizing objects for our new online collections database,” Barnett continues. “Of the 51,000-plus objects in our collection that have been catalogued, we currently have over 3,000 records with over 4,000 images now available, and we are adding more all the time.”
And “education staff have been working on creating virtual programs, such as AT HOME Kid’s Craft Corner, our monthly history craft lesson. As in-classroom programming will not be happening this year, they are also developing a virtual museum platform for teachers to access online content through videos and downloadable activities.”
Patrons can see some of the online offerings during Halloween events in October.
“The first event will kick off on Oct. 3 with our special Halloween edition Kid’s Craft Corner: Design a covid-Friendly Mask,” Barnett says. “Kids will learn a brief history about Halloween and how wearing masks has become a part of this holiday’s celebration. Then they can follow along as we show you how to create your own covid-friendly Halloween mask to wear this year.
“If kids or adults would like to show off their Halloween mask designs, they can be in our virtual Museum Mask Parade as part of the Downtown Rogers Virtual Halloween Parade on Oct. 30,” she adds. “To enter, post a selfie with your mask to Facebook or Instagram using #MuseumMaskParade2020 by Oct. 14. We ask that designs are kept to a family-friendly Halloween theme.
“The second event is our ever popular Ghost Walks guided tour, which is going virtual this year,” Barnett goes on. “Hear true tales of murder, mischief and mayhem! This event will be happening live via Zoom at 7 p.m. Oct. 28. Although this is a free event, registration will be open via Eventbrite from Oct. 1-25.”
But it’s the in-person interaction that delights Barnett right now.
“The safety of our visitors is always our No. 1 priority,” she says. “That is why we have had our doors closed since March. However, we are confident that with our safety procedures in place, we can provide a safe museum experience to welcome back our visitors. After recently discussing our reopening plans with Mayor Hines, we felt that we were now prepared to reopen the museum to the public.”
Now, she says, it’s time for that happy dance “to welcome our community back.”
Rogers Historical Museum
WHEN —10-11 a.m. & 1-2 p.m. Thursday and Friday; 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday
WHERE — 313 S. Second St. in Rogers
COST — Free
INFO — 621-1154 or rogershistoricalmuseum.org