Museums

Museums adjust to post-pandemic visits

(My story about museums welcoming back visitors first appeared on NBC)

Ready to leave your house and spend some time in a museum?

With all 50 states in some stage of post-pandemic reopening, many museums are back welcoming visitors to art- and history-filled halls.

Doing so signals a return to “normal” in many communities — but it may also help plug the economic hole created when almost every museum in the country closed its doors in response to COVID-19 concerns.

“All museum revenue related to admission, gift shop and café sales evaporated, along with event rentals,” said Laura Lott, president and CEO of the American Alliance of Museums, which pegs the loss at $33 million a day. “As many as one-third of the nation’s national cultural treasures may never reopen.”

Museums that are opening are doing so with extreme caution and close attention to social distancing, health and safety. Here is a sampling of what visitors will encounter.

Elvis Presley’s Graceland, Memphis, Tennessee

It’s sexy when Elvis Presley croons about feeling his temperature rising in the classic “Burning Love.” But now that the gates at Graceland are reopened, anyone with a fever 100.4 degrees or higher is not allowed to enter the shrine to the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll.

In addition to mandatory temperature checks, the attraction is limiting entry to just 25 percent of normal capacity and encouraging guests to wear masks. It is using commercial-grade cleaners, including UV light sanitizer wands and disinfectant foggers, to sanitize the campus.

The Mob Museum

The Mob Museum, The National Museum of Organized Crime & Law Enforcement is open in downtown Las Vegas with reduced entry capacity, a mask requirement for all guests and pre-entry temperature checks.

The museum has its own speakeasy and, while supplies last, will be giving each guest a complimentary bottle of ethanol hand sanitizer made in the on-site distillery.

Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Cleveland

John Lennon's Guitar

If it stayed closed through the end of the year, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame would be facing a $12 million loss in revenue. So the museum is eager to reopen to the public by June 15.

“We have been blowing the doors off with virtual offerings on our website and reaching people where they are at this time,” said museum CEO Greg Harris, “We think that will increase the number of people that now desire to visit the museum in person.”

When the doors do open, there will be timed entry, limited capacity and newly hired nurses at the entrance to take everyone’s temperatures. The museum will reserve certain hours for at-risk groups such as seniors. Rock ‘n’ roll-themed masks will be provided to visitors who arrive without their own.

Many touch screens will be turned off until the museum installs antimicrobial covers, and “The Garage,” an exhibit that encourages visitors to play instruments and jam with others, will be closed.

Ripley’s Believe it or Not! – Branson

Ripley’s Believe it or Not! museum (home of the world’s largest roll of toilet paper) opened over Memorial Day weekend with reduced capacity and new social distancing and sanitizing systems. The odditorium is evaluating how the protocols are working out before opening for the summer season.

Wonders of Wildlife National Museum and Aquarium, Springfield, Missouri

The sprawling Wonders of Wildlife National Museum and Aquarium, adjacent to Bass Pro Shops’ national headquarters, reopened over Memorial Day weekend after a nine-week closure.

To accommodate social distancing, timed entries, enhanced cleaning procedures and limits on daily attendance, the attraction is extending its opening hours. Confined spaces like the swinging bridge are temporarily closed; interactive experiences, such as the penguin encounter, are being modified; and the museum is adopting the COVID-19 response plan developed by the Florida Aquarium in Tampa and the Infectious Disease Prevention team at Tampa General Hospital.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

New York City’s iconic Met said it plans to reopen in mid-August or whenever the city meets the phased-in reopening requirements.

The museum’s three locations — The Met Fifth Avenue, The Met Cloisters and The Met Breuer — have been closed since mid-March.

“The Met has endured much in its 150 years, and today continues as a beacon of hope for the future,” President Daniel Weiss said in a statement last week. The institution will belatedly celebrate its 150th anniversary next year, he said.

Buffalo Bill Center of the West, Cody, Wyoming

The 40-acre Buffalo Bill Center of the West reopened May 7 with added staff members during peak hours to keep surfaces in the center’s five museums clean. Now that the south and east entrances to Yellowstone National Park are open, the museum is fine-tuning its new protocols and preparing to welcome more visitors.

Kentucky Derby Museum and Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory, Kentucky

Museums, aquariums, zoos and distilleries in Kentucky cannot reopen before June 8. But in Louisville, key attractions including the Kentucky Derby Museum and the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory are already ringing up sales in their gift shops.

Touring the Toilet Paper Museum

“Krapp,” “DouDou” & toilet paper with Donald Trump’s face on it

This is an excerpt from the story we wrote for Fodor’s Travel about a Toilet Paper Museum in the Pacific Northwest.

Toilet paper has been in the news quite a bit lately as people search for it, swap for it and, in a pinch, steal it.

But Bobj Berger isn’t letting anyone near his cache of more than 200 rolls of vintage, odd and unusual rolls of the toilet paper in his Toilet Paper Museum.

Berger began his own collection with a bright pink roll of Canadian toilet paper with French writing on one side of the wrapper and English on the other. Not long after, his sister presented samples from the first and tourist-class restrooms on a German train.

After that, the collection just kept rolling along.

The circa-1969 “Krapp” toilet paper comes from Austria. The roll of “Doudou” toilet paper hails from Martinique.

In the celebrity section of the museum, toilet paper bearing the likeness of actor John Wayne is emblazoned includes the slogan “It’s rough, it’s tough, and it don’t take crap off anyone.” 

The politically-themed section of the Toilet Paper Museum includes novelty rolls that encourage users to wipe up with presidents ranging from Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, George Bush and Jimmy Carter.

And Donald Trump has his own section.

Museum Monday: Where to see the Aerocar

We enter the new week still grounded by COVID-19, but dreaming of places we might soon be able to go.

And the fun ways we might get there.

In the meantime, we put together a round-up of some aviation museum highlights to visit, virtually, for The Points Guy blog.

On the list, we were pleased to be able to include one of our all-time favorite aviation artifacts: the Aerocar, which is part of the collection at Seattle’s Museum of Flight.

The museum recently posted a fun video of the museum curator describing the Taylor Aerocar III, which is one version of the flying car that Moulton Taylor built – and flew – in the 1950s.

Take a look at this 1949 news reel that shows the Aerocar taking flight.

Snaps from the Toilet Paper Museum


Everyone is talking about toilet paper these days.

We’re counting our rolls. And coming up with strategies to find more.

No wonder. Toilet paper is an essential part of daily lives.

So we were delighted to be back in touch with Bobj Berger. The model train enthusiast, train manager and seasonal Santa Claus lives in Washington state and is the curator of a Toilet Paper Museum that has more than 200 rolls of historic, odd and unusual toilet paper rolls.

We’ve written a story about him and his collection for Fodors, which we’ll link to here as soon as it’s published. But we wanted to share some fun pics from Berger’s Toilet Paper Museum with you here. Because even though it’s not Museum Monday, right now we could all use something light.

Berger has been collecting toilet paper rolls, toilet paper dispensers and toilet paper memorabilia since the late 1960s and the collection is filled with some treasures.

There’s glow-in-the-dark Y2K toilet paper, celebrity-themed toilet paper and, of course, toilet paper that lets users wipe up with the faces of past and present presidents.

(All photos from the Toilet Paper Museum courtesy Bobj Berger.)

Museum exhibits worth planning a trip around in 2020

What Me Worry? by Patty Kuzbida Courtesy AVAM

Planning your 2020 travel? Some museum-centric ideas

If history, art and eclectic adventures are what you seek out when you travel, you’ll have plenty of excuses to pull off the road in 2020.

For CNBC we put together a list of great options, from a retrospective celebrating 25 years of outsider art to fresh shrines and exhibitions devoted to everything from eyesight, motion pictures, shoes, music and rodeo culture.

Celebrate Southern Rock in Georgia

Courtesy the Mercer Museum at Capricorn

In early December, Macon, GA celebrated the reopening of the Capricorn Sound Studios, which captured the music of the Allman Brothers and other emerging bands playing a new musical genre dubbed ‘Southern rock’ during the 1970s.

The new Mercer Music at Capricorn now operates as a music incubator, with the Museum at Capricorn opening on January 2 to tell the history of the iconic studio with artifacts, photos, recordings, album art and music-filled interactive digital kiosks. (Museum admission: $7; Studio tour: $5)

Radical rodeo in Fort Worth

Red Grooms – Rodeo Ruckus – Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth

If you’re headed to Fort Worth, Texas to attend the parades, shows, contest and other events that take place during the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo in Fort Worth, Texas (January 17- February 8, 2020) be sure to stop by the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth.

The museum will display artist Red Grooms’ rollicking Ruckus Rodeo installation, a giant walk-through work that celebrates the Fort Worth rodeo with 3-D caricatures of rodeo regulars ranging from the rodeo clowns and cowboys to broncos to and bulls. (January 17-March 29, 2020; Admission: $16; half-price Sundays; free admission Fridays.)

Fancy Footwear in Florida

– Peep Toe Ankle-Strap shoes. Stuart Weitzman Collection. Photo Glen Castellano, New -York Historical Society.

The grandiose Gilded Age estate that is now the Flagler Museum in Palm Beach, Florida is an appropriate exhibition space for Walk This Way: Historic Footwear from the Stuart Weitzman Collection. Organized by the New-York Historical Society, the 100 shoes in this exhibition are not just pretty to look at, they tell stories of culture, consumerism, power and history. (Jan 28-May 10, 2020; Admission: $18).

Garden of delight

©YAYOI KUSAMA. Courtesy of Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo Singapore Shanghai; Victoria Miro, London; David Zwirner, New York

In the Bronx, NY, the 250-acre New York Botanical Garden (NYBG) will present KUSAMA: Cosmic Nature, by celebrated Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama from May 9 through November 1, 2020. The garden-wide exhibit will include the artist’s signature mirrored environments, paintings, giant polka-dotted sculptures flowers and pumpkins, site-specific sculpture and a new greenhouse installation. Tickets go on sale on sale on January 20.

When women got the right to vote

Library of Congress

The 2020 Women’s Vote Centennial Initiative has an extensive list of museum exhibits around the country marking the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th amendment, which guarantees women the right to vote.

Wyoming, which gave women the right to vote 50 years before the rest of the nation, kicked off its suffrage celebrations in 2019 and continues with many special exhibits statewide in 2020.

In Washington, D.C. the National Museum of American History will present “Creating Icons: How We Remember Women’s Suffrage,” with artifacts from 1919 and 1920 donated by the National American Women Suffrage Association, the precursor to the League of Women Voters (Opens March 6; free).

A visionary retrospective

Matchstick sculpture by Gerald Hawkes. Courtesy American Visionary Art Museum

Baltimore’s American Visionary Art Museum (AVAM) collects curates and celebrates self-taught artists and “outsider” art and presents workshops, parades and themed exhibitions filled with odd and exquisite creations. In November 2020, AVAM will mark its 25th anniversary with a retrospective show featuring work from its past 40 exhibitions, bring back some work which has been in storage for years. (Admission: $15.95)

Courtesy Museum of Science, Boston

The U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Museum opens in Colorado Springs, CO in April 2020, ahead of the 2020 Summer Olympics.

In Spring 2020, keep an eye out for the opening of the Truhlsen-Marmor Museum of the Eye at San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf. The free museum at the headquarters of the American Academy of Ophthalmology will feature a collection of more than 38,000 artifacts, books, and instruments and virtual reality activities.

The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, featuring a collection of photographs, films, videos, costumes, props and more, is scheduled to open in Los Angeles, CA (of course) in Spring 2020.

And in late 2020, the Museum of Science, Boston will open “Arctic Adventure,” a major permanent exhibition that will immerse visitors in a polar environment using state-of-the-art light projections and a real ice wall. (Admission included with Exhibit Halls ticket: $29 for adults, $24 for kids.)