After months of forced closure, the East London Museum finally opened its doors once again last week.
According to museum director Geraldine Morcom, the lockdown hit them hard.
“Normally we get a lot of visitors over Heritage Month in September and into October, so we didn’t have those. We normally get cruise ships, but we didn’t have those visitors either,” she said.
The festive season, another popular time for the museum, was also a bust last year.
While public visits may have been closed, the museum wasn’t entirely silent. There was much that continued running behind the scenes.
“What we did is that people would come in and check that machinery and climate control were still working, that our freezers were still working, that our alarm system was still working,” Morcom said.
Once restrictions had been eased a little, the museum also started to continue other programmes, such as research.
Morcom said the lockdown has forced the museum to reconsider its strategy going forward. “We have to look at more ways of using our digital platforms,” she said.
“However, it’s very expensive. We are not the Met [Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City] or the British Museum. They also have lots of staff.”
Staff shortages are a continuing problem for the museum and before lockdown, they relied on volunteers to assist them in a number of areas.
“We did have volunteers before Covid-19, particularly in our library, for example. We are short-staffed and we don’t have a librarian,” said Morcom.
“These folk would come in and assist in our library. It was a huge load that they took on and took off our minds.”
These volunteers were one of the many aspects cut due to lockdown, another being the museum’s intern programme with local universities.
“Having said that, we are positive that we are open again,” Morcom said.
She encouraged members of the public to get more involved by joining the Friends of East London.
“The Friends have talks every second month. Also when we have museum functions, they come and assist,” she said.
The museum is open on Mondays to Fridays, from 9am until 4pm.
Due to Covid-19, only 50 people are allowed inside at any given time in order to allow museum staff to ensure guests adhere to health and safety precautions.
For more information, contact the EL Museum at 043-743-0686.