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Museums, historical sites move to reopen as safely as possible

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

Visitors in the Doris and Arnold Roland Sculpture Garden at the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture in Santa Fe. (Courtesy of The New Mexico Department Of Cultural Affairs)

After 10 months of being closed to the public, state-run museums and historic sites are slowly reopening.

The New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs opened two Santa Fe museums on Thursday: the Museum of International Folk Art and the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture.

The National Hispanic Cultural Center Art Museum will open Friday and the New Mexico Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum in Las Cruces will follow suit on Monday, Feb. 8.

According to Cultural Affairs spokesman Daniel Zillmann, with Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s latest order, state museums and historic sites were given the go-ahead to open.

“We opened for about a month in late-September, before closing again (Oct. 23),” Zillmann said. “We’ve used the time to ensure that all the personal protective equipment (PPE) for employees is there, as well as signage for the public. We wanted to open as quickly and as safely as possible, which is why the openings are staggered.”

The Museum of International Folk Art opened on Thursday after months of being closed due to the pandemic.

As a result of the closures, both attendance and revenue were down in fiscal year 2020 and the outlook for 2021 is grim.

According to the department, museums were closed in the final three months of fiscal year 2020, resulting in a $1.5 million reduction in revenue from admissions and rentals.

This fiscal year – which began July 1 – the Cultural Affairs department has taken in just $135,851 in admissions and rentals, which is $1.7 million less than in the same period last year.

“A key component of our revenue that supports museum operations are other revenues, primarily admissions and rentals,” Zillman said.

The museums and historic sites have a long way to go to reach pre-pandemic numbers. Zillmann said that, during the downtime, many museums took the opportunity to change out exhibitions.

The Museum of Indian Arts & Culture is opening with free admission because the exhibit “Here, Now and Always” is under construction and part of the museum is closed to visitors.

Zillmann said that, as the museums open, each will follow the state’s guidelines and go county by county.

The museums are participating in the state Department of Tourism’s New Mexico Safe Certified program. The capacity during this phased period of reopening is 75 people, with face coverings required indoors and outside.

The New Mexico Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum will keep social distancing on the 47-acre campus and in 100,000-square-foot main building at the forefront.

Once open, museums and historic sites will operate on a modified schedule. Zillmann is directing the public to visit for updates on hours, prices and other information.

The details will also be made available through social media and on websites.

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