The Natural History Museum of Utah (NHMU) will reopen its doors on Saturday, August 15 and the community is invited to return and experience familiar exhibitions in new ways. Since an unexpected closure in March to fight the spread of COVID-19, the museum’s staff, led by newly-appointed executive director Jason Cryan, has been innovating safe and enjoyable ways for guests to return and explore the exhibits. 

“We cannot wait to welcome the community back through our doors in a safe and responsible way,” said Cryan. “Our team has once again created a wonderful museum experience rooted in science, while now prioritizing the health and safety of our staff, volunteers and guests.”

Many of the museum’s exhibits have been adapted for interaction using a stylus, one of which will be issued to each guest upon arrival. The tool will allow visitors to explore the museum’s many hands-on interactives—including touchscreens, buttons and dials—in a hands-free manner. Providing a stylus was a simple but elegant solution to maintain visitor engagement while limiting surface contact during a visit. 

“It’s important for us to allow visitors the freedom to explore exhibits in an intuitive way without worrying as much about high-touch surfaces,” said Tim Lee, exhibits manager and senior exhibit designer. “And, based on early feedback, we believe exploring NHMU will be even more fun with a stylus in hand.”

Guests also will notice other changes made by NHMU in the consideration of health and safety. This starts with the museum’s ticket purchase process, now only possible through an online reservation system designed to limit crowding in the galleries. There will be mandatory requirements of face coverings for visitors over the age of 2 and physical distancing between all parties. Hand-sanitizing stations have been placed frequently throughout the building and custodial staff have increased the frequency of all surface cleaning. Physical, plexiglass barriers have been erected wherever guests regularly interact with museum staff. Anyone who is experiencing symptoms of illness will be asked to stay home and stay safe until they feel better.

One change museum staff and supporters will be glad did not take place is the closing of the homegrown special exhibition, Nature All Around UsInitially slated to end on May 25, the exhibition has been extended through September 7. Designed and built by NHMU, Nature All Around Us highlights the wild plants and animals that live in the cities and towns throughout Utah. 

“In some ways Nature All Around Us will be even more meaningful now that we’ve all had time to be at home and notice the hidden worlds that exist in our own backyards and neighborhoods,” Cryan said. 

To purchase tickets and learn more about visiting NHMU, go to nhmu.utah.edu/.