Four of Dayton’s most popular attractions are ready to welcome us back.
Carillon Park, the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery and SunWatch Archaeological Village are now open, with the Dayton Art Institute reopening in July. All have all announced reopening plans after being closed to the public since mid-March.
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We talked with museum directors — Brady Kress of Dayton History, Tracey Tomme at the Boonshoft and Michael Roediger of the DAI — about what visitors can expect to find as they re-enter some of their favorite spots in the Miami Valley.
Q: When will you reopen and what safety measures are being taken?
Kress: Our guests will see all employees in face masks, socially distanced, and fewer tables in the restaurants for distancing. All of the exhibit building doors will be propped open, multiple hand sanitizer stations have been deployed, and there will be Plexiglas stands at our guest services desks. We encourage guests to wear masks, but they are not required.
Roediger: We are looking to open in early July after the Fourth of July Holiday. The first week we open will be members-only as a way of saying thank you. We are requiring guests and staff to wear face coverings. Guests will see specifically designated entrances and exits to the museum. There will be increased signage requesting physical distancing and recommended routes through the museum. The DAI is also requesting that guests reserve timed tickets in advance so that we can maintain an appropriate amount of people in the museum.
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Tomme: We plan to open both the Boonshoft Museum and Sunwatch in limited capacity. At the Boonshoft, there will be one-way traffic flow and the indoor play areas will be closed. At SunWatch, the Village will be open while the exhibits will remain closed. At both locations we will request (but not require) visitors to wear face masks. Visitors will be asked to respect 6-foot minimum social distancing. All staff will wear masks and have their temperature taken daily. We will have extra hand sanitizer stations and will clean throughout the day, as well as thoroughly at the end of each day.
We have removed access to nearly all the manipulatives and wearables to minimize the high-touch areas. An exception to the removal of high-touch surfaces we are considering is the Ancient Egypt interactive exhibit, which will be cleaned continuously throughout the day. We will also limit guest entries to prevent bunching up. We don’t have a timed ticketing system in place yet, but we are looking at only allowing one family to enter every 5 to 10 minutes.
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Q: What are some of the attractions visitors can look forward to enjoying:
Roediger: We are excited that the DAI is able to hold over our special exhibition, “Samurai, Ghosts and Lovers: Yoshitoshi’s Complete 100 Aspects of the Moon,” that had opened just prior to the shutdown. This will run through mid-September, in place of the originally scheduled summer exhibition, which we will present in a future season.
Kress: When we re-open, our new eaglets will just be fledgling our eagle nest. Guests will be able to watch them learning to fly.
>> LEARN MORE: Carillon Historical Park’s eaglets’ names unveiled
Tomme: When they view Sunwatch Village from the deck, walk the new paths, read the new signage, and see the added features that bring a more complete picture of what life may have looked like in the village 800 years ago, they will be moved. It is truly an amazing site with a rich history and so much to teach us.
At the Boonshoft, the Ancient Egypt exhibit is not to be missed. We are also looking to bring out more from our collections and of course everyone needs to come and say hello to their favorite zoo residents. The animals are ready for visitors! To avoid large crowds in small places, we will temporarily discontinue our Otter Talks and Science Theater presentations, but we are looking to increase planetarium presentations. It is also a great time to schedule a private tour (adults only) of the back collection vaults.
Q: What has been the biggest challenge in the past few months of quarantine?
Kress: Our biggest challenge as a private nonprofit during this time has been coping with the huge loss in revenue. We rely a lot on admissions, rentals, educational program fees, and our sales in the museum store and two restaurants.
Tomme: It has been challenging to be closed without knowing for how long. We did keep our staff and have remained busy with cleaning, repairs, exhibit work, zoo animal care, online education programs, and creating our Camp in a Box programs. The challenges of finding funds have been great as the need across all sectors is so dramatically increased right now that donors and foundations are understandably focused on other more front-line nonprofits. Our revenues are cut to practically zero while our expenses have remained almost the same. With the zoo, we can’t exactly shut down sections of our building or reduce our electric and gas usage. It has also been challenging to have most of our staff working from home. We have some though that are thriving and will most likely continue to work from home indefinitely, while others simply cannot do their jobs from home and are eager to get back in the building.
Another challenge we have been working to solve is how to reach young learners and families in our area who may not have internet access. For this, our team created science guides for activities that can be done at home with items you would easily have around your house. We made 1,200 color copies of the guides and delivered them to Dayton Public Schools. They were then delivered with the lunches to students. Also we have had so many people interested in helping get quality educational materials into the hands of students over the summer that we now have over 50 camp scholarships available. These can be for our on-site camps that start back up in July or for the Camp in a Box options.
Roediger: We miss being together and with our members and guests. We miss being in the museum and seeing the collection. Loss of revenue has been tough. We appreciate all of the people who have made annual fund gifts and renewed their membership.
Q: What positive changes have taken place during the closure?
Kress: We’ve had many positive outcomes at Carillon. The additional creation and release of social media materials, such as our “how to” videos. A good amount of interpretive planning for future additions. The largest positive outcome might be our Bob Vila “sweat equity” project: we redesigned our museum store and guest services layout. We brought in multiple shifts of staff to paint and organize. It turns out our brewers are really good with paint brushes.
Tomme: Our new Camp in Box is very exciting! Our education (staff) and curators came together to create these really robust learning experiences. We’ve sold almost 100 camps so far across the local region, Ohio, four other states, and even one to a child in London!
We had already added emphasis to our successful distance learning programs. Through funding support from the State of Ohio, we are finishing up the installation of nearly $60,000 in new equipment allowing us to broadcast live content from several areas of our facilities to classrooms across the country. Suddenly, this is even more timely and important work. We don’t know yet exactly what challenges schools will be facing in the fall, but we are committed to helping provide quality, accessible content.
Roediger: The team has proven that many positions can work off-site and be productive. We have adapted to virtual programming and look to increase the use of technology.
Q: Will your gift shops be open? Food? Anything else we should mention?
Kress: Culp’s Café and Carillon’s Brewery will be open. So will the Museum Store.
Tomme: Our gift shops will be open, but the with limited capacity allowed. Right now the Boonshoft gift shop is open by appointment so that families can shop together. As we open I see the need may change, but clearly we will need to limit the numbers in that space. We will keep vending machines and water fountains closed.
We are also starting to book weddings and birthday parties. A new feature will be to book a group with a timed entry and private meeting space that will allow the guests to share time with their friends/relatives and also have a more tailored experience while avoiding any crowds.
Roediger: The Museum Store will be open and also continues to offer everything through its online store. Leo Bistro will remain closed for the remainder of the year.
Q: What’s inspiring about a visit to your museum at this challenging time?
Kress: I believe guests will find a visit to Carillon Park inspiring during these times because they can experience so many other unique stories from Dayton’s past that required personal sacrifice, risk and hard work.
Tomme: When you take a few minutes to walk our nature trails, enjoy the antics of our river otters, or slow down long enough to appreciate Patience the sloth, or step back in time with our collections and exhibits, you can forget about the stresses outside our walls and just breathe.
Roediger: We have a saying at the DAI – “Art Changes Lives…Live it!” We have heard from many that they miss their museum and favorite pieces in the collection. For more than 100 years, people have taken respite at the DAI. We want to be a place where all people are comforted and find hope. The DAI’s collection can take you all over the world in a visit.
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