It takes a lot to close The Corning Museum of Glass. We’ve experienced floods, snowstorms, and now a global pandemic! The majority of our closures have been fleeting in nature, but COVID-19 presented us with the prospect of the second long-term temporary closure in the Museum’s history. The Museum made the decision to close to the public on March 16, mere days before millions of other non-essential businesses followed suit. It was a difficult call to make, and with no end date in immediate sight, it was hard to close the doors and walk away.
We have to go back to June 22, 1972, to remember the last time the Museum was closed for an extended period of time. With much of our collection underwater after Tropical Storm Agnes dumped record levels of rain, the Museum remained closed for six weeks as a mammoth cleaning operation was underway. The Museum reopened on August 1, a stronger institution for having overcome adversity, and we now remember this time as one underscored by the dedication, resilience, and tenacity of our staff.
During the Museum’s temporary COVID-19 closure, our current staff members were equally driven, reimagining our spaces to enable social distancing, dreaming up digital programs to engage with our would-be visitors, and preparing for our eventual reopening. Although the situations surrounding 1972 and 2020 are very different, the end result is not. After more than three months in hibernation, the Museum reopened on July 1, and, just like last time, it took a whole lot of cleaning to get us ready.
Cleanliness in public spaces, like museums, has always been important, but in this particular moment, it’s critical. Our dedicated teams in housekeeping, culinary, and operations ensure that every surface—from the dining tables to the bathrooms—are spotless.
Of course, there’s another layer that might not be as transparent to the public: the cleaning of our exhibits and displays. Everyone knows how often glassware in our homes has to be dusted. Imagine readying an entire glass museum to reopen after three-plus months! As a rule, our collections and exhibitions team clean daily, and work through the entire Museum over a six-month period.
Welcoming hundreds of thousands of visitors each year is a big task under normal circumstances, and the ever-changing demands of COVID-19 necessitate careful vigilance on our part to ensure that our guests can have fun and stay safe during their visits. Central to this effort has been the Museum’s Senior Manager of Environment, Health and Safety, Bill Gilbert.
We asked Bill to share some of the measures being taken to ensure our spaces stay clean:
Question: Bill, we’ve always placed a high priority on cleaning, but what’s different now?
Answer: Guests will see an increased presence of our housekeeping staff around the facility. Normally, we try to keep our cleaning activities out of sight, but we now need to disinfect the common touchpoints so often that it’s not possible to “hide” the cleaning. Guests appreciate seeing our staff working hard to maintain cleanliness. Many guests have commented that it makes them feel better knowing how much effort is going into the process.
Q: What was the process like to determine these new standards of cleanliness?
A: There were multiple steps. First, what guidelines should we use? We settled on the CDC and New York State Department of Health to help set our standards. Once we developed those standards, each department did a thorough risk assessment to identify things like common touchpoints, areas of concern for staff and guests, etc. Next, what products do we chose for cleaning and disinfecting? Again, the CDC and DOH were key places to get the information. Our vendors also helped to determine what items were available and effective for disinfecting.
Q: There must be a lot happening behind the scenes to make sure that everything is ready each day.
A: That’s right. After hours, the housekeeping staff does a disinfecting process we call “misting” around certain areas of the Museum, using a device similar to a pressure washer, which sprays surfaces with VitalOxide (a harmless disinfectant with a great reputation against viruses.) We can complete up to 18,000 square feet per hour with this process.
It’s also interesting to note that the Museum’s air filtration system is near surgical quality. Filters are set as close as possible to 100% outside air, meaning guests enjoy fresh, clean, and safe air.
We have also asked all on-site staff to actively participate in our cleaning efforts. Any common workstations are disinfected after each use to protect the next person who uses it.
Q: Have there been challenges along the way?
A: The biggest challenge has been deciding how to continue to provide a great experience to the guest while minimizing risk. For example, The Studio made the tough decision to not offer some Make Your Own Glass experiences since we couldn’t maintain social distancing. Limiting or eliminating popular demonstrations was also difficult.
Q: So, Bill, for everyone coming to visit, how can they do their part?
A: Following our guidelines will help keep us all safe. Staying away from the Museum if you’re not feeling well, maintaining social distancing, and wearing a face-covering properly are all very important to control the spread of the virus. Let’s not forget to be kind to one another during these stressful times. Relaxing and enjoying your visit to the Museum can add to everyone’s appreciation of our facility.
We’ll all keep doing our part to keep The Corning Museum of Glass as clean and safe as you’d expect so you can have a fun visit. To reserve your timed ticket, visit cmog.org today! We look forward to welcoming you soon!
For more safety information and Museum guidelines, please visit the Museum’s safety page at visit.cmog.org/safety.