Dear Fellow Fire Museums,
Since Pres. Bob has asked us to share, I will write down some of my thoughts on re-opening.
The Fire Museum of Maryland is located just north of the Baltimore beltway and serves the entire metropolitan area. Our scope of activity (collecting), however, covers the entire USA and we specialize in urban FF and to a lesser degree, EMS. Normally we would be open in the Summer Wed.-Sat., and other months just Saturdays for walk-ins. We take tours, parties and rentals any day or time. Since COVID-19 almost our entire earned income has been eliminated. That's about $80,000.
The staff was furloughed on 17 March and we basically locked down except for a weekly visit by me, Will or Amy to check on the humidifiers and mail and to prepare stories that we shared via our web site and FaceBook.
The last week of May some of the staff reported, with more trickling in, and two major staff still out as of 22 July. We have been grateful for PPP.CARES (Fed. via Fulton Bank) money and the Md.Humanities.CARES grant to help us rehire existing staff and pay for utilities through June. We re-opened to the public on 3 June. On that, more anon.
We did not do our usual mail solicitation drive in April-May but we are in the middle of one right now. 713 pieces plus an email blast, and a $100-250 match-challenge for gifts until 31 July. Everybody knows about the virus so in my letter and email I focused on trying to keep the paid staff on payroll and protecting our fabulous collection. Some paid staff (2-3) have been volunteering; the volunteer staff (12+) have continued to do 'their thing'. Some are more conservative and some more liberal about this disease and we have been able to work with most, sometimes re-assigning jobs.
When we re-opened on the 3rd of June, we had already developed a list of modus operandi, the signs were changed, some interior doors propped open to reduce touching, water bottle for sale; no water cooler, 5 hand sanitizing stations; masks required.
Walk-in attendance has ranged from 2 to 11 although we did have 40 for a car show. Typically attendance would be 20 for July weekdays and 40-60 for Saturdays. We keep the lights off until they are needed. We are trying to reduce staff distraction from inventing new ways to make money but at the same time, give our visitors a quality experience. Most staff have office duties that they can perform whilst not talking to the public. We are planning to put about 6 items on our web site for sale.
Education is working full-steam on 'virtual' tours and Power Points using one camera and a tripod. We are answering research questions. I have started to make appraisals of antique apparatus. Only one museum around here has a professional video department and that has been functioning for several years. They are busy trying to make videos for themselves. Other museum directors, curators, educators, store managers AND PR directors talk amongst themselves and through our local history association. We are all trying to find ways to attract attention and provide a service without having people come into the building (not our choice, you understand!) Social studies and history teachers are suggesting that it will be two years before students will be coming in here.
I keep our elected officials appraised as to what we are doing without being burdensome to them. I am reaching out to regular donors and finding new ones, realizing that each situation reflects a wide range of economic stability. You don't know if you don't ask! Partnering has always been a good thing to do, and while that principle has not changed, I find that most of my colleagues are trying to discern the medical and political announcements on their own.
I've been rambling for a while. Hope this helps a little.