How To Defend Against Ongoing Health Risks At Museums and Collecting Institutions

Museums and other collecting institutions like non-retail art galleries, archives, halls of fame, botanical gardens, and traveling exhibitions play a vital role in engaging communities in history and rich cultural heritage.

While many institutions can implement safety measures like advanced cleaning protocols and limited in-person attendance, staff and visitors must take ongoing precautions to protect their health and limit the spread of viruses or illnesses like COVID-19.

Protecting Museum Staff and Visitors From Health and Safety Risks

In addition to self-guided tours and exploration, museums frequently host guided docent tours and lectures, performances, and hands-on learning opportunities for groups. There is always a risk of spreading disease or illness when interacting in a group, especially if you are huddled in a tight space and using high-touch surfaces like walkway rails or counters.

There are many questions to consider when exploring how to safely work at or visit a museum or cultural heritage and collecting institution, including:

  • What are the best ways to protect the health and safety of museum employees, visitors, and volunteers while caring for the integrity of the collection material types?

  • What steps can you take to minimize the risk of disease transmission in museums and collecting institutions?

  • How can people stay safe when navigating high-traffic crowds and shared spaces like restrooms?

With these questions in mind, AIHA has created this “Healthier Workplaces and Schools eBook” to help protect employees and visitors from the health risks they face.

The guidance documents borrow from the latest advice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and expert advice from leading health, government, and academic organizations.

The guidelines share actionable steps and recommendations to protect museum workers, visitors, and volunteers, including information on the following key areas:

How museum owners and employees can protect themselves and visitors from health risks:

  • Ventilation considerations to improve airflow while protecting delicate artifacts, including how to position portable or overhead fans.

  • Enhanced cleaning and disinfecting practices and how to conduct a risk assessment of exhibits.

  • Personal hygiene best practices, including how frequently staff should wash their hands.

  • Physical distancing strategies in work and visitor areas, such as creating one-way foot traffic patterns and using barriers when possible.

How visitors and guests can protect themselves at a museum or collecting institution:

  • Personal protective equipment recommendations, including whether to wear a face covering or mask at a museum.

  • Strategies for limiting the need to use shared materials like pens when completing necessary paperwork.

  • Self-monitoring practices and how to know if you should stay home.

Additional Museum and Collecting Institution Health and Safety Resources

To access more help and resources to understand and avoid health risks at museums and other cultural heritage and collecting institutions, we recommend you explore the following resources and networks.

Resources by Type


Healthier Workplaces and Schools eBook

The recent pandemic has taught us many important lessons about the spread of infectious diseases like COVID-19, RSV, and measles in indoor environments. As a result, we must take advantage of what we have learned to help ensure our places of work are and continue to be safe places for our workers, customers, and communities. Many of the steps you can take to help keep buildings and the people in them safer and healthier are simple and effective and can be adjusted to meet the current situation or infectious disease risk that exists. In this e-book, we will walk you through the different approaches to help mitigate the risk of spreading airborne infectious diseases depending on your workplace setting.