The “eerily” empty Red Deer Museum and Art Gallery will welcome back the public Monday.
“We’re so excited to be reopening,” said the museum’s executive director, Lorna Johnson, after nearly three months of COVID-19-related shutdown.
Exhibits can be viewed starting next week.
Although most of the museum’s staff had been temporarily laid off, Johnson has still come in every day to feed the koi fish in the lobby pond.
“It’s been so eerie to be in the building with all of the empty exhibits,” she admitted.
When the museum’s doors reopen, it will mark a return to work for some staff, while others will still be waiting to be recalled, based on the museum’s funding for the remainder of 2020.
Johnson said visitors will not be seeing any interactive exhibits when they follow directional arrows around the exhibits. The exhibits were removed because of fears the virus can spread through touched surfaces.
While it’s odd to return to the way museums used to be, with “look, but don’t touch” rules, Johnson believes there will be plenty to take in — including central Alberta artist David More’s large paintings of Sylvan Lake beachgoers.
More’s bold, colourful works are just right for the summer season, said Johnson.
The exhibit is filling in for art installations that had to be cancelled due to museum shutdowns. (One of these shows, Lyndal Osborne’s Tracing Tides, will be shown at the Red Deer museum instead next summer.)
Next month, the museum will start holding summer camps for a reduced number of kids, in accordance with provincial guidelines.
“We will be having eight children per class,” said Johnson, who added protective measures will be in place.
Also, a popular adult outdoor printmaking program, with artist Marnie Blair, will be offered in July.
Public art programs, Mag Saturday and the Mini-Mag programs, will be relaunched in September.
Johnson said participants will have a choice of booking times on the museum’s website. Johnson said it’s a way of ensuring smaller groupings.
Also in September, the Ohciwin exhibit of Indigenous pow wow garments will be shown, along with an Anne Frank exhibit, which will be reprised.
Johnson said she jumped at the chance to reshow the popular exhibit.
She explained that the installation couldn’t be sent on to other museums when it ended in Red Deer earlier this year, because they were also shut down because of the virus.
When the Anne Frank House Museum in Amsterdam offered Red Deer a chance to reshow the installation because other stops on its Canadian tour were cancelled, Johnson decided it made sense to give local school groups and others another chance to see it.
This fall, one of the museum’s galleries will have grown in space. Johnson said the COVID-19 shutdown allowed staff to install more compact storage units in its artifact storage area.
This means that part of the gallery space that had been blocked off for storage, will become exhibit space.