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Smithsonian Prepares for DC’s Reopening With COVID-19 Response Team

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The Smithsonian Institution released a statement about its preparations ahead of a possible reopening of museums, as Washington, D.C. is set to restart its economy from Friday after keeping coronavirus-related restrictions in place for weeks.

Museums in the District will not be allowed to open their doors until the second phase of the ReOpen D.C. program. However, the Smithsonian has already made its plans for its museums’ reopening.

According to Wednesday’s statement written by Lonnie G. Bunch, Secretary of the Smithsonian, the institution has created two task forces and a COVID-19 response team to design a strategy on how they can gradually reopen.

The museum’s strategy is based on local and federal health guidance, sound science, and public health data in the localities. “It will be accomplished in phases, allowing us to open our doors to our staff, and eventually the public, in a way that reduces risk and protects our most vulnerable employees and visitors,” the statement said.

“We look forward to engaging and inspiring the public at our physical locations, but in the meantime, we continue to serve using our digital resources.”

In the meantime, the Smithsonian’s directors and curators are collecting a contemporary record of events, reaching out to various groups to ask them to set aside objects that tell the story of a global pandemic to future generations. “One such set of objects is personal to me, as they will be coming from my daughter, who has seen the effects of this virus up close as an emergency room doctor,” Bunch added.

They also improved their virtual assets, educational tools, and digital platforms available online to the public. Among the vast digital resources they are offering can be found on Smithsonian Cares, including Learning Lab that provides educators, parents and students high-quality learning resources and interactive tools to create lesson plans.

The Smithsonian Open Access platform allows people to download, create, and reuse three million 2D and 3D digital items from the museum’s collections. And there is Sidedoor, a Webby-nominated podcast that tells unique behind-the-scenes Smithsonian stories.

In addition, Smithsonian scientists, curators, and historians are sharing their expertise through online events.

All Smithsonian museums and the National Zoo temporarily closed to the public on March 14, 2020, as a preventive measure against the coronavirus pandemic.

Following D.C.’s Phase 1 reopening that kicks off on Friday, the city will be on track to enter Phase 2 after a certain point, when museums will be able to open with limited capacity (up to 50 percent) and with only five visitors per 1,000 square.

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