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From the Vault: RMAC during the pandemic

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Submitted Photo Organization is part of the work at the Roswell Museum and Art Center.

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The Roswell Museum and Art Center during the pandemic

By Aubrey Hobart

Curator of Collections

and Exhibitions

In response to the coronavirus pandemic, the Roswell Museum and Art Center (RMAC) closed its doors to the public on March 18. Unable to mount any new exhibits, host any events or classes, or offer any planetarium shows, it would seem that there was little left for us to do. However, while these activities are the most visible to the public, museums have scores of work that they accomplish in the background. The last few weeks gave us a chance to catch up on some of these behind-the-scenes tasks that we often don’t have time to do when we’re busy producing new content for our community.

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Our security staff kept busy during the closure with all kinds of cleaning and freshening projects that will make the museum more inviting to visitors when they can return. They painted walls, washed all of the classroom chairs and tables, cleaned out cobwebs and sanitized the door handles and other hard surfaces. Outdoors, they removed rust from our patio furniture and gave all the tables and chairs a fresh coat of paint. There are even new plants in our planters to make the museum’s entrance more welcoming.

The event staff spent their time deep-cleaning and reorganizing both of the kitchens we use for public events, and a few closets where we keep our event supplies. In the meantime, our associates in the store painted the walls, rearranged the displays and cleared out material to make way for new merchandise. The custodial staff have also taken on some extra tasks, like waxing our linoleum floors to make them nice and shiny again.

On the educational side of things, Amanda Nicholson worked on our volunteer training program and wrote tours to match school curriculum. There won’t be any more field trips this school year, but by next year we’d like to increase the number of students we can serve, and by having many new tour guides and fresh material, we’ll be able to offer a great learning experience to Roswell’s student population. Ceramics teacher Aria Finch also took some time to do a deep clean of the clay studio and prepared glazes for when her students can return.

The museum’s director, Caroline Brooks and her administrative staff worked on RMAC’s budget for the next fiscal year, updated our policies and procedures, and sorted through decades of museum correspondence. On top of that, she has kept our spirits up and ensured our safety as much as possible. She even sewed protective masks for all of us. Brooks has been an excellent leader during this difficult time and we will emerge stronger because of her efforts and the efforts of everyone else who works for RMAC.

Finally, in my department of collections and exhibitions, we undertook a wide variety of projects. Many spaces in the museum were in need of reorganization, which wasn’t a priority while we were open and serving the public, but this break was a nice opportunity to finally get around to them. We have since organized the areas where we store all our audio/visual equipment, lighting, paint and frames, which will make our work quicker and more efficient when we reopen. We also continue to check all the items in our care every day to make sure everything is as safe and secure as possible. I’m still doing research on objects in our collection, too, as well as planning for future shows.

Speaking of future shows, though the exhibit calendar is in disarray at the moment, we’re expecting to have many new exhibitions when the museum does reopen. We may have two or three Roswell Artist-in-Residence shows up at once, as well as an exhibition of contemporary Indigenous American art, a mini-exhibit of landscapes designed by our museum store manager, a family show featuring all kinds of animals, and some art that was inspired by the forms of calligraphy. We’re also brainstorming about how to continue hosting fun activities at the museum while keeping everyone at a safe distance and all our supplies sanitary.

We don’t yet have any information on when it will be safe for the museum to reopen. However, if you want to be the first informed, follow our Facebook page @rmacroswell. When we do open our doors once more, please consider visiting us. In a 50,000-square-foot facility, there’s plenty of room to spread out, and fortunately, no one is allowed to touch anything.

 

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