museums reopening

Museums are reopening across Canada and they want to help share stories of the pandemic

Museums and art galleries across Canada have all been closed for the past three months, but while they’ve been unable to welcome visitors looking to enjoy a bit of art, culture and history, they have been busy collecting personal experiences of the global pandemic. 

The Musée McCord Museum in Montreal, which recently announced a June 23 reopening, has been running a special photography project, Framing Everyday Life: Stories of Confinement

Alongside gathering photographs from the public of how people have been adjusting to a new normal, the museum commissioned professional photographer, Michel Huneault, to document the pandemic over the last three months.

This documentary series will be shared at the museum in 2021. 

Public relations officer at McCord, Ludovic Lop says it’s important that people document their isolation experiences through COVID-19 for the following generations.

“Few photographs of past pandemics have been found and it's important, as a museum of social history, to document and keep track of what we're experiencing,” he said. 

“In many years, these photographs will remind us of what we've experienced, of our home. It’s an atmosphere that emerges there and that must be kept for future generations.” 

Other museums in Canada have been doing the same thing, like the New Brunswick Museum, the Museum of Vancouver and the Royal BC Museum in Victoria. 

All three institutions have launched separate projects over the lockdown to document how people are working their way through the crisis. 

The Museum of Vancouver has also arranged to collect some of the murals painted on plywood covering retail storefronts downtown and in Gastown, as another way to remember this time in history. 

Stories of the pandemic, as well as showcases of local art, both seem to be something visitors can expect more of once museums start reopening across the country. 

The McCord Museum will return with a program of three temporary exhibitions dedicated to Montreal artists, in addition to its permanent exhibition.

“As people can't leave the region, it’s our privilege to rediscover our city under a new eye. Local art is part of Montreal, and we hope that visitors will be more connected to it,” said Lop.

There will also be a few new safety measures in place on opening day that will be around for the foreseeable future.

The museum will be limiting capacity, implementing timed-ticket admission to allow for further capacity control and no-contact purchasing, providing Plexiglas shields in customer service areas, as well as offering floor markers for physical distancing. 

Lop’s confident these measures will enhance the visitor experience.

“The experience will be even more enjoyable because visitors will have the opportunity to spend more time in front of the artworks and won't have to wait between pieces,” he said. “Visitors will feel as if they have the museum all to themselves.” 

Though some museum officials say they won’t be opening their doors until at least the fall, including national institutions, the Canadian Museum of History in Quebec, the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa and the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg. 

The Royal Alberta Museum in Edmonton, which has been collecting some COVID-19 artifacts of its own, including hand sanitizer bottles from local breweries and caution tape from closed playgrounds, is among the institutions that have been in the process of re-welcoming the public.

RAM received nearly 500 visitors over the opening weekend on May 16. 

Communications officer, Kelsie Tetreau says the museum is excited to be able to welcome Albertans again and hopes that guests will even be able to use the cultural space to process the pandemic.

“The role of a museum is not just to house exhibits of old objects. Our role is to share transformative moments; to create connections between past and present, and to provide a space for reflection,” she said.

“It’s our hope that our visitors can find a bit of comfort, strength, or understanding of what is otherwise a very abnormal time. And if nothing else, they’ll get a bit of a break.”

Tetreau says they’ve been working hard to ensure a safe space for visitors and the safety measures in place are similar to McCord. 

RAM will be operating at reduced hours, limiting the number of visitors to a maximum of 100 individuals at a time, and encouraging visitors to wear face masks and bring their own strollers. 

The museum has also closed the Children’s Gallery and all other interactive elements to limit visitor contact in the galleries.

“We’re taking a measured approach, making sure Albertans know that we've taken precautions to provide a safe experience," said Tetreau."We're ready to receive them when they're ready to come back to their museums." 

Lead photo by

Musée McCord Museum


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