The National WWI Museum and Memorial in Kansas City, Missouri has set its reopening date after closing down due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The museum will be open to its members on Monday, June 1, while the general public can again visit the museum the following day on Tuesday, June 2, according to a press statement provided by the National WWI Museum to American Military News. The museum’s reopening comes with several provisions in place to maintain social distancing and ensure that it can remain clean for visitors.
“We have monitored the COVID-19 situation closely during the past few months and, in accordance with guidance from public health officials at the local, state and federal levels, we are ready to reopen America’s official WWI Museum and Memorial,” said Dr. Matthew Naylor, National WWI Museum and Memorial President and CEO. “We’ve spent considerable time developing a comprehensive reopening plan that allows for people to visit one of the world’s great museums and memorials in a safe and welcoming environment.”
Visitors are being allowed into the museum, in limited numbers during one of two timed sessions each day, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. for the first session and from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. for the second session. The hour break between the two visitor sessions is reserved to allow for additional cleaning of the museum.
Mike Vietti, the Director of Marketing, Communications and Guest Services for the museum said the museum will be able to allow a little over 300 people in the building at a time during their visitor sessions. Vietti said the museum is not always as busy on weekdays, but that normal traffic on weekends can well exceed the roughly 300 people they can let in at a time under the current health restrictions. He said the best way for visitors to ensure there will be space available for their visit is by purchasing tickets in advance at the museum’s website.
“There’s just a lot of unknowns at this point and we’ll find out when we open,” Vietti said.
The museum has also renovated with various sanitary measures, such as hand sanitizing stations around the building and no-touch doors and trash-cans. Staff and volunteers are also wearing face masks and visitors are encouraged to wear such masks but are not required.
The museum’s Liberty Memorial Tower and the Edward Jones Research Center will also have to remain closed, given the close confinement of those museum spaces.
“There’s simply no way to keep those open while maintaining the appropriate amount of social distancing,” Vietti said.
He acknowledged the restrictions in place, such as the closed sections and the time limit of visitor sessions may hinder some guests who like to spend hours at the museum closely examining documents and artifacts. While some rules may be a hindrance, Vietti said the museum was happy to reopen after nearly three months of closure due to the coronavirus.
“The caveat is, things may change, and they may change quickly and again we just ask for everybody’s patience and understanding because the rules and regulations have already changed a number of times and we anticipate they will change again,” he said.
While the museum will still be closed for Memorial Day on May 25, the organization running the museum is offering three live-streamed events during Memorial Day, including 10 a.m. Central Standard Time, 12 p.m. and 2 p.m. with dignitaries, including: Missouri U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II, Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas, Kansas U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, Kansas U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids, Sporting KC soccer star Khiry Shelton and musical performances from Kansas City native and Nashville recording artist Casi Joy. Viewers can watch the three ceremonies at their given times at theworldwar.org/live.
Naylor and Vietti both considered the irony of the 1918 influenza pandemic’s proximity to the war, alongside the disruptions to the museum’s operations due to the current coronavirus pandemic.
“The world was devastated by the Great War, compounded by the pandemic of 1918, yet re-emerged,” Naylor said in his statement. “We can look to the past to gain an understanding that we have the capacity to get through this and quite possibly emerge stronger than before.”
Vietti noted visitors can look at display detailing the development of medical knowledge throughout the war, including the information about how the 1918 influenza outbreak spread as a result of the war.