For the first time in nearly three months, the Musée Héritage Museum and the Art Gallery of St. Albert has opened their doors again. Visitor and staff safety are now considered a high priority, right up there along with all of the cultural offerings of art, history and heritage.
That means a hand sanitizer stand is in place and a lot more efforts have been taken.
“It's reasonably challenging to reopen a public facility. There’s lots of staff training. There's a lot of modifications that we've had to make. It's taken us a little while to actually have everything in place to be able to reopen,” explained Ann Ramsden, the executive director of Arts and Heritage St. Albert, the arms-length organization mandated to run the city-owned institutions.
The gallery and the museum are now open with modified hours of operation of 1 to 5 p.m. from Tuesdays to Saturdays. Customer service desks have the now-standard Plexiglass barriers and visitors will certainly note the signage encouraging physical distancing. High-touch activities (such as hands-on programming) have been discontinued and staff members have heightened their cleaning and disinfecting routines as well.
Attendance at each facility is limited to a maximum of 15 people at a time, among other efforts.
Ramsden said that the staff is excited to get back to business as usual.
“Well, it's business as usual ... with a twist,” she offered.
“We've got everything in place. We did a staff survey a few weeks ago to find out where the concerns were and we've addressed all those through training.”
As for what is available for viewing once guests arrive, things are much the same as they were when the pandemic hit. The gallery still has Niamh Dooley’s exhibit Nintawin on the walls. The autobiographical exhibit by the St. Theresa Point First Nation artist is an effort to redress the colonial practices of assimilation, loss of land rights, and the residential school system.
High Energy 25 is also live as an online exhibit on the gallery’s website. The museum has its own online exhibits as well on its website while Keeping the Peace: Internment in Canada, 1914-1920 is still available for viewing in person.