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State museums, historic sites reopening, with precautions

The exterior of the Roy E. Disney Preforming Arts Center at the National Hispanic Cultural Center. The museum will reopen on Thursday, Sept. 24. (Jim Thompson/Journal)

After being closed for six months, New Mexico’s eight state museums and seven historic sites will reopen at 10 a.m. Thursday.

According to state Department of Cultural Affairs, the facilities will resume operation at 25% of normal capacity under the state’s current public health order.

“We are excited to be reopening the doors to our museums and historic sites, and have been thoughtfully preparing to ensure the health and safety of our employees and visitors,” Cultural Affairs Secretary Debra Garcia y Griego said in a statement. “During closure, we have remained dedicated to preserving and celebrating the cultural integrity and diversity of New Mexico virtually, but we know New Mexicans are eager to experience our state’s rich heritage in person.”

Although attendance numbers fell during the last fiscal year due to the pandemic, not all was lost.

After the closures, DCA staff and educators pivoted and created online programming. Many of these were hits among visitors, and online content will continue to be generated.

DCA museums and historic sites will operate with modified schedules.

This includes closing at 4 p.m. each day to provide additional time for cleaning and sanitizing.

Facilities that are open on Wednesdays will reserve a two-hour block – from 10 a.m. to noon – for higher-risk populations.

This corresponds with DCA’s weekly free day for New Mexico residents ages 60 and older.

Garcia y Griego encourages the public to visit each facility’s website or call to confirm days and hours of operation before visiting.

Online ticket sales are available for the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science and National Hispanic Cultural Center’s Art Museum.

Garcia y Griego said access to some areas will be limited and others will remain closed in compliance with public health directives.

This includes theaters, classrooms, libraries, collections storage and picnic/snack areas. Many of the museums have already shut down some of the interactive exhibits.

“The public will not have access to coat checks, lockers, or backpack/purse storage, nor the use of rental equipment such as headsets, portable speakers, strollers, etc., unless required for ADA accessibility,” Garcia y Griego said in a statement. Group visits, public programs, special events and volunteer/docent activities will continue in virtual formats only.

Visitors will be required to wear masks.

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