Receive our most important stories in your inbox every morning.
This story has been updated.
After announcing temporary closures over the weekend, the Witte Museum and The DoSeum children’s museum said they hoped to reopen Wednesday. However, on Tuesday afternoon, the DoSeum revised its plan to remain closed at least through the Fourth of July holiday weekend, with no announced reopening date.
The museums said they decided to close after the City of San Antonio issued an emergency alert Saturday evening in response to a spike in local coronavirus cases. The alert urged residents to stay at home.
“While we have no cases on our team and museums in general are not considered spreading environments, we closed in support of a City wide effort to keep residents at home,” said Dan Menelly, DoSeum president, on Monday. “Our brief closure is intended to align with and support our City leaders’ urgent request for residents to stay home.”
The new extended closure announcement reinforced that reasoning. It reads, “our hope is that extending our closure will further aid our city’s efforts.”
The Witte Museum sent out notice that it intended to stay with its July 1 reopening plan. Its announcement quoted Marise McDermott, executive director of the Witte Museum, saying “During this pandemic era, it is essential to reassess how to be open, regularly.” She called the museum “a safe haven for the public.”
On Monday, McDermott said the “pause” in operations gives staff time to assess current safety protocols and any additional measures required.
“We … wanted to give the team a little time to just be with each other, and make sure that we understand how we are a gathering place in a way that is safe for us and for our wonderful families that visit us,” she said.
The Witte had reopened to the public May 30 following a brief members-only reopening period. The DoSeum had just completed its member preview week and was set to reopen to the public Monday. Both cited the City declaration as their reason, with neither museum claiming any positive tests among staff or visitors.
For their reopenings, both museums had instituted strict safety measures, including mandatory mask-wearing by staff and visitors, removal of hands-on displays, cleaning sweeps between timed visits, new signage and capacity monitoring, and other practices.
The Witte commissioned custom masks with graphics based on its collection to be sold in its gift shop. A tyrannosaurus-themed mask paying homage to the large dinosaur in Naylor Family Dinosaur Gallery was designed by Magaly Chocano of Sweb Development and SafeWell, a consortium of San Antonio business leaders focused on pandemic protocols and safety equipment. Goods Collective produced a mask based on a painting of Texas bluebonnets by Julian Onderdonk.
McDermott said concern for the health of all involved motivated Witte staff and board members to close, based on what McDermott called the “alarming” news of the coronavirus case surge. She characterized consideration of enhanced safety protocols as a “reset,” with more time between timed visits, possible closure of elevators, and further encouragement for visitors to make use of the spacious museum grounds.
Both museums announced that they planned to reopen on Wednesday. However, as is the case with many decisions based on the developing pandemic situation, the scheduled reopenings are conditional. The DoSeum announcement read, “We are closely monitoring the situation and will adapt our operations accordingly.”
McDermott said future decisions will depend on local pandemic conditions.
“We care about our team, we care about families that come to the Witte so much that we have to be responsive to … the health environment,” McDermott said.
“We plan on being open as much as possible,” she said. “People love to be here. They’re not coming in droves, but they’re coming in steadily. And that’s the way we want it. We want to return to that.”
The DoSeum announced that any ticketholders affected by the two-day closure can receive a refund or reschedule their visits.