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Webinar Notes: Historic Sites and COVID-19

Apr 09 2020

Webinar Notes: Historic Sites and COVID-19

Resources for NonprofitsAs we discussed in a previous blog post on COVID-19 Webinars for Nonprofits, webinars are an easy way to stay informed and educated while working from home. Four Rivers staff recently participated in an American Association for State and Local History (AASLH) Webinar on “Historic Sites and COVID-19,” which included a discussion about the unique challenges the coronavirus pandemic poses for historic sites across the county. Speakers offered ideas about how historic sites can best fulfill their mission, support their staff and volunteers, and serve their communities during our present circumstances and uncertain future.

Here are the top key takeaways we thought would be helpful to our partners.

1 – In planning ahead for your reopening (when it is safe to do so), consider a “tiered” or “gentle” reopening process. For example, if your site has a garden, you could open that first, and offer exterior tours. When you’re ready to open for interior tours, continue to place a limit on groups fewer than 10.

2 – Many of our sites are popular venues for weddings. Now, even our smaller sites can join in with the celebrations. “Micro weddings” (with 10 attendees or less) are becoming popular around the country. Think about offering “elopement packages,” specially developed for smaller events. Elopement packages are already in high demand in the DC area, the audience our sites serve.

3 – Rethink the role of volunteers. What can they do to support you in this moment? Volunteers can be treated as a special audience, receiving special communications, links, and online content. Several of our partners have created a “closed group” on Facebook for their volunteers to stay informed and communicate with one another (and there are other tools to do the same thing.) If you saw our blog post on Virtual Events, you have heard that your volunteers can also be the perfect audience to try out something new before it goes live to the public.

4 – While staff are unable to perform their normal duties, you can use this time to focus on their professional development or recruit them into creating new content that can be used now or in the future. Some sites are dipping into to their “backlog” of tasks: transcribing, translating, creating training manuals, and more.

5 – Although cutting staff, programs, or other budget items is an unfortunate result of the pandemic, it can also give your organization a chance to revisit your core missions. What do you need to refocus on when you open again?

6 – Start thinking about what will be the “new normal” at your site. Will you go cashless? Will you ask visitors to wear masks and gloves? Will you greet your visitors in a new location? Start working these considerations into your reopening plan.

7 – Revisit your fundraising strategies. Health and human services are currently a rightful priority, but that doesn’t mean you can’t strategize about how to engage donors and ensure the continuation of your organization’s mission when you’re ready.

8 – It’s important we keep thinking toward the future and the day we can welcome the public once more. Reopening our museums and sites will give us a renewed opportunity for connection with our visitors and our community.

Want to hear more from AASLH? To help the history community address the COVID-19 crisis, AASLH has developed the “AASLH Conversations” webinar series. These topic-focused webinars are intended to provide an interactive space for history practitioners and institutions to share ideas, learn from one another, and keep the field moving forward. We can fully attest that these webinars are worth your time!

And to stay informed about other upcoming webinars of interest, make sure to sign up for our weekly Four Rivers Heritage Area Newsletter.