Museum Director Shares Their Protocols for Safe Tours in 2021 (The EventBuzz Podcast)
Podcast speakers: Savannah McIntosh (Purplepass Marketing Director) with Kathleen Carlucci (Museum Director for the Thomas Edison Center). Jump to links and video notes below.
The EventBuzz podcast:
The Thomas Edison Center at Menlo Park
Podcast Transcript: Purplepass + The Thomas Edison Center
Hey guys and thanks for joining us for another episode of EventBuzz, all the way from New Jersey, today’s guest is the Museum Director for a center named after one of America’s greatest inventors. Need a hint? A man responsible for pretty much everything we love and know today, um, let me see electric power, lighting, motion pictures, sound recordings…its Thomas Edison.
Today, we are talking about the Thomas Edison Center, and how they’ve been navigating this pandemic, as well as the procedures they’ve introduced to keep visitors and groups safe during their tours at the historical site.
Kathleen, thanks for coming on the podcast. Let’s start by giving a brief intro about the center to our listeners and maybe your transition to using our ticketing platform online and how that’s been going.
Kathleen (Thomas Edison Center):
So when COVID came around in spring of 2020, we had already been looking into having a ticketing resource for a museum. Because like a lot of other, you know, entertainment type industries our people coming in weren’t all standard, we’d get, you know, three at 10:00, 13 at 11:00 and 45 at, you know, this time, so on and so forth. And so we wanted something to, you know, streamline for not only my docents
but also for the visitor so that they would have a you know, a premium experience, visitor experience, and wouldn’t have to be looking over people’s, you know, heads and things like that.
And so, you know, this really just worked out perfectly for us. And we think it’s a, you know, a great addition, you know, for our visitors also a great benefit.
Now, we used to be able to do hands on items in here. Actually, that’s one of the most popular things we had. But of course, we cannot do that. But we don’t tell people “Oh, we’re not doing hands on anymore, we just do demonstrations instead. And it’s really worked out wonderfully well.
And we’re not a large Museum, we have, you know, really two galleries, not large again, at all. But, but each of them is filled with, each of them is filled with, you know, original artifacts.
So, you know, we wanted this to be a positive. So this is really worked out well. And that’s what we’re just trying to do, we’re trying to even things we can’t do anymore. We’re trying to, you know, parlay them into a positive thing. And so I don’t think people they’re not missing anything, because they don’t know it’s been taken away. And we do try to keep our tours as usual, you know, educational, but fun. You know, another one of the benefits of having this ticketing system is I did have some dos into were a little long, in some parts, you know, and then it would backup my tours, but having our tours
timed this way, there’s no option but to move on.
And it’s been really helpful. On to the newer visitors coming in.
Awesome. Yeah, that makes sense. I mean, it helps you stay on schedule, in a way.
And people a lot of our people who come here, we’re in the middle of the state of New Jersey, not quite in the middle, but people call it central Jersey. And so there’s a lot of friends that consider us like a meeting point and something fun to do. And you know, when they know that they have tickets for a specific time, it just to me from past experience and this current experience, it seems like they’re on time and they’re not keeping their friends waiting for 45 minutes or more, which of course is so infuriating and definitely take something away from you know, their visit here.
So that’s actually been another positive.
That’s true. That’s true. It’s helping out you guys but then also them for that one, that one friend that doesn’t really like the schedule, you know. We all have one. Okay, so for the museum and your visitors, I wanted to touch base on just the different the different protocols you’ve had to put in place since COVID. Just to get just to see how you guys have changed it up or how you are following like the CDC guidelines or what you’re doing differently.
Yeah, we had to make a lot of changes as all of us had. So I’ve been working very closely following the CDC guidelines, and also with our town health department. And so we have installed Plexiglass at the gift shop, you know, which is where a lot of people are standing and looking, we’re always happy to see them. But also it divides, it’s our front gallery a little bit, it keeps the people coming in, separate for from those on the other side of the Plexi.
And actually, some of my board members have come in and they said, “This Plexi is so purposeful, like, we should have had it even before, you know, this event, because we had really nice designs put on it having to do with Thomas Edison.
So it’s clear, but you can see the, you know, the division of the room, but it’s actually like ornamented almost
Yeah, that’s cool!
Oh, they look beautiful. Of course, we do checks with temperature, before anyone comes into the room. And also on our Purplepass site we have where you have, you know, have you been around anyone that’s sick? Do you have a temperature? Yeah, you know, we’re having people self check before they come here and of course, we check also, because they could have bought the ticket on, you know, two weeks before.
And so we want to make sure that they’re still well. One of the other things that we had to do here, because we don’t have automatic doors, is that we cannot allow people to open the door, we’ve actually had to keep the door locked, and then we go outside, and then we bring the people in.
Because of the problems with, you know, contamination of the door handle. We also have an air purification system that our nonprofit, you know, felt was really important. And it really seems to put our visitors at ease. We also have the hand sanitizing stations.
And I really believe that you know, we’re all wearing mask, mask are required. We have a notice outside that people are comfortable to come in here. Yeah, we are fortunate to that we have a lot of outside interpretive signs that people can use also. So I think that extends their visit somewhat also.
I am so after this call, send me if you want or if you have time, I would love to see a picture of the plexiglass how you said it’s almost like decorated so it kind of goes with the museum. And then I was glad to like share that on our social media and stuff. Because that’s cool. Like, everyone’s using these different things, protective gear, but that’s like, we can get kind of creative with it. I mean, what else are we going to do? You know, new mean?
We have to do it!
Yeah, might as well look good. So that’s awesome. I actually haven’t talked to anyone that’s actually decorated that so cool.
It looks great!
Yeah. So send me a picture of that. I definitely see that, for so you guys do the tours. For your large groups, I know you said, technically you want to, like how large can they be like where it’s still safe?
Well, so we can have it depends if like if they’re all living in the same senior community, for example, well, but we haven’t done any of those yet. Because they’re really, you know, under the gun with everything right now. And they’re, you know, most at risk. But typically what we’ll do is we’ll bring a group, we start the tour outside, if we can, with all this weather dependent, but even if it’s cold, you know, we’ll have some point of time, where we give them an orientation.
And then what I can do is, if it’s a very large group, I can divide them in half, and have the same tour going on in the front room as the back, you know, not the verbal part, not the, you know, the, you know, the, the part of seeing what’s, what’s there. And then we can switch the rooms and start again.
So we’ve had because we’ve always been such a small museum. for school trips, I used to rent tents every year to have outside. We’re used to working with limited space. But we just want to keep everyone safe. I mean, New Jersey has been hit pretty hard. So we’re really very cautious about you know, being careful.
Yeah, I mean, yeah, you guys have been hit pretty hard California and New York like everyone. It’s so sad and I’m so glad that you guys are still able to like operate and be open and you know, because it gives people people want something to do. Well, I mean, you know, are slowly going crazy, because it’s like we’re missing out on all these different things. I’m glad you guys are still able to operate safely. And everyone can still experience.
Well, we weren’t close for we were closed for seven months and just reopened October at the end of October. And it’s been slow. But steady, and, and you know, we’re going to get through this, but we want to get through it safely. And so that’s what we’re trying to do. We’re all in this together.
Exactly. So you guys just open your during the tours? Do you still do? Have you done any? I know, you offer different programs for like schools and special events. But are you guys still offering that at the moment? Or is it just tours right now? Because I mean, obviously, you’re probably really limited to what you can really do.
Now, we’re really limited. The schools here, of course, are, you know, except for some private schools, they’re all doing it virtually. And, you know, we have gotten a few requests from like scouting groups, because they’re generally small, and we’re going to try to figure out how to manage that. And, you know, if, and we’re, you know, we’re gonna work through it and just keep the group small. I used to have, like, a minimum of so many students for scouting groups, I really can’t do that anymore. You know, I, it’s too high. I have to keep them lower, actually. So, you know, it’s an adjustment. We’re all making these adjustments. I don’t know, when the school trip the school trips will begin again, I think, you know, folks will be wary, you know, just like after 9:11 people weren’t going on school trips. They were afraid and understandably, and so, I think it’ll be a slow return.
Me to unfortunately. But as long as we’re like, slowly, you know, moving forward, I will take that. So before, using, like working with us, did you guys ever do tickets online? Or is it all just in person? No, we actually had signed with another company in November. And we did then of course, COVID hit, we hadn’t even really been set up yet.
So we, for me for extremely short period of time and then they were bought out. And I wasn’t pleased with the platform that they had. And so I called around and I was really happy with Purplepass.
Okay, I think we’re talking about.
We hadn’t, we hadn’t been like, we never used a company or worked or partnered with a company like Comcast. For the extent we do now. It was, like I said, we signed up and then we were close very shortly thereafter. And so, you know, limited tickets, if I sold 20 tickets or 30 tickets through there I’d be amazed. You know, Purplepass, really where we have our experience, working with.
Okay, awesome. Yeah. I wanted to ask what that was just curious if it was your first time actually using the technology. And because I wanted to see like how the transition was, but and then just to like, close it up, because I think you answered a lot of my questions. For the listeners out there, especially maybe, directors or people in charge of exhibits, museums, kind of in your shoes, do you have any advice for them? Maybe they’re not open yet. Maybe they’re, they’re slowly getting ready to reopen any advice you might want to tell them as they’re starting their journey or anything that you have done? Yeah, anything like mistakes you have made that maybe they might be able to avoid?
Well, we took it slow. So we were trying to avoid mistakes. I know some of my people that are interested in our museum and work hard, you know, to keep it running and in good shape. They were concerned, they wanted to open up a little earlier. And I just said I really want to be successful so let’s take it slow. I mean, normally, we were open to the public three days a week and two days, two other days of the week. We did school trips.
We’re only open on Saturdays right now. We just want to keep working at it slow and being successful. So that’s my advice, and I also listen to more webinars than I could ever you know, believe that I would.
But they were really helpful. I mean, not every one of them because a lot of like nonprofits or you know, museums or entertainment sites, theaters, exactly, you know, for example, they’re much larger than we are. And they have many more programs. But there was always something, you know, some knowledge that I gleaned from this. And I listened, I was watching YouTube videos on the pandemic, and I was watching one in New Zealand for a zoo, and they were talking about the bubble.
And, and that’s what I’ve been calling like, like, with a family or group larger than six wants to come together. You know, and so, you know, little things, but it really gave me a sense of security, you know, to see what was going on to know that, you know, accommodations can be made. My health department here was so helpful, you know, really great guidance. And, you know, I just just keep going go forward, but go slow, you know, make sure that you’re going to be successful, you don’t want to open up and then have to close a week later.
Exactly. And and that’s the beauty of thank goodness for technology right now. I mean, we’re all kind of staying at home, why not use this time to learn everyone is putting out there’s so much information out there so many answers out there. So many ideas, like you said, you’re going on YouTube, webinars, podcasts, what we’re doing right now, like, this is the time to kind of learn and see how you can grow and try to grow with how the world is going.
Great advice. I definitely agree to take it slow, because that would be awful to reopen, and then close again. Yeah, I think that’s all I have for you today. Thanks for chatting with me. And whenever you have time today. Go ahead and send me like any links, ticket links, websites, anything you want me to include with this podcast because I do post it on our blog and social media and I’ll include those links for you.
Video notes and links
The Thomas Edison Center:
Purplepass features mentioned:
Safety features mentioned: