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We Are Open

An older man watches intently as a young girl wearing a baseball hat demonstrates how to use the braillewriter.

I’ve been pretty excited this week. It’s been almost sixteen months since we had a visitor in the museum, but that ended yesterday. A father and his young daughter just stepped out of the elevator, and call me a soft touch, but I am in tears. A museum is not a museum without visitors. It is just a collection of stuff, and meaningless at that.

On March 17, 2020, after a week or two of shocks and surprises, my boss at the time, Gary Mudd, called and told me that APH was shutting down as a precaution to help protect us from Covid-19. We had been devising all sorts of stopgap measures to prevent this, the usual stuff–masks, sanitation, social distancing, you know the drill—but in the end the disease was spreading too fast and people were dying.

Almost immediately it became apparent that this was going to be a long-term thing. If restaurants and movie theaters and theme parks were closed, so it would go for museums and factory tours. Even after our production staff came back to work in June 2020, to a world of controlled entry, temperature checks, required facemasks, and isolated workstations defined by plexiglass shields, it was obvious that our safety team was going to limit the number of outside visitors to the APH campus.

And the more I thought about it, it was going to be impossible to provide an accessible experience for all visitors without allowing touching. Unlike most museums, we allow a lot of touching in our exhibits. Touching was suddenly a very bad word. And if we couldn’t provide an accessible experience for everyone, I decided not to be open for anyone. That is our culture here at APH.

So, if we’ve been more careful and conservative in our reopening plans, relying on guidance from our state government and the Center for Disease Control for best practices, we still have much to celebrate. The staff that make essential educational and daily living aids for kids and adults with visual impairments for our nation kept working and stayed healthy during a very dangerous time. And now we’re finally able to welcome our friends, family, and visitors back to the APH campus. We’re limiting the size of tours, and cleaning surfaces a lot more, and asking you to mask up if you haven’t been vaccinated, but we’re open. We are open.

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