The Nantucket Historical Association (NHA) has “lowered its whaleboats” at the Whaling Museum and is welcoming the public back into this world-class museum… with a little twist.
Most who have visited this iconic island museum will agree that there’s no place like it. To add a bit of fun to pandemic restrictions (while still implementing all to keep guests and staff safe), the NHA has installed a yellow cobblestone road inspired by The Wizard of Oz (can you hear the tune in your mind?) as a visual guide to lead visitors safely through the various rooms and exhibits with appropriate distancing, including their outdoor roof deck.
“We wanted something very recognizable, fun, and light-hearted as opposed to something that maybe would come across as restrictive and boring if we just had a stanchioned path,” explained Ashley Santos of the NHA. “We also really liked the play on cobblestones to give it its own Nantucket feel..I have already heard numerous families in the past couple of days skipping and singing as they head off towards the timeline…it’s so great to see!”
New Whaling Museum exhibitions include a magical collection of curiosities in Neptune’s Grotto, a new area devoted to the dramatic and tragic tale of the Essex, and a brand new and engaging Discovery Center designed for kids with take-home projects to help teach history in a fun way.
“Underscoring all the above is the firm belief that cultural institutions like the NHA can be places of healing during a time of crisis,” states James Russell, Gosnell Executive Director. “We are fortunate to have large open indoor spaces, and the concept of “seeing-not-touching” is widely understood when visiting a museum. Providing a sanctuary is important this year, particularly as other indoor entertainment options are limited. We choose the Yellow Brick Road metaphor for a reason—this year we want to do our part to strengthen the heart, mind, and spirit of the community. The raison d’etre for the NHA is that it is an ever-evolving synthesis of Nantucketover- time, through its collections and historic properties. As this crisis tests our very being, we can look to how the island’s forebears stood up to similar economic and health challenges.”
New physical enhancements make a touch-free experience while visiting, including scheduled and timed visits that can be booked online; extended museum hours at the beginning and end of the day; an 8am–9am reserved time for seniors; and a self-guided audio tour available using personal devices.
“The NHA is the steward of important Nantucket collections, many of which were donated over its 126- year history by members of the community, and we are committed to providing access as soon as we are permitted to safely do so,” states Kelly Williams, NHA President. Management has enthusiastically extended the wintertime policy of free admission for the island community.
Staff is implementing robust sanitizing measures to safeguard the public and make the indoor experience both exceptional and safe for all ages. And the NHA has contracted with a Boston-based firm that specializes in the field of pathogen remediation. Their team of experts conducts frequent sanitizing regimen throughout the complex, tailored to the needs of the museum and informed by similar work in Boston-area schools, hotels, and hospitals. Other safety upgrades include sanitation stations throughout the museum; HVAC system MERV13 filters; and increases in the flow of fresh air into the building.
Nantucket by Design, the NHA’s premiere summer fundraiser that celebrates the island’s unique influence on American Design is going virtual for 2020, and that makes it accessible to a global audience. This year’s phenomenon, held July 30 through August 1, brings together the world’s top talent in interior design, with presentations and tours. Participants can enjoy virtual private dinners, a Night at the Museum virtual dance party, and The Nantucket Summer Antiques Show all through live-streaming platforms.
Other pandemic pivots made by the NHA for 2020 include member-only hours; reserved entry times; online learning and lectures; decorative arts classes usually taught in-person at the 1800 House that are now being taught live online; and an expansion of their Museum Shop’s online offerings with curbside pickup. They also have new special offerings for NHA members that include weekly member mornings for small groups, NHA guest speakers for your own Zoom cocktail party, discounted rates for renting the Whaling Museum roof deck for small group dinners, and more.
The NHA continues to provide remote research services, and when allowed, will offer again both inperson service to researchers and intimate member mornings that prove to be so popular.
Throughout this crisis, visitors are encouraged to enjoy the peace and tranquility found at many of the historic properties, such as the beautiful gardens of Hadwen House and Greater Light, or the open spaces by the Old Mill and Oldest House. Public outdoor programs, will be planned once permitting allows.