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Community / Reopening museum will cost ‘significant sums of money’

Shetland Museum and Archives remains the most popular visitor attraction in Shetland according to the latest survey. Photo Shetland Amenity TrustShetland Museum and Archives. Photo: Shetland Amenity Trust

REOPENING the museum in Lerwick will cost “significant sums of money”, according to the chief executive of its operator Shetland Amenity Trust.

Mat Roberts said there is a balancing act between cost, safety and the responsibility to deliver a service for the public.

Museums in Scotland should be able to re-open from 15 July with social distancing and hygiene measures in place.

Roberts said one the most important pieces of guidance the amenity trust is waiting on is whether the two-metre distance rule could drop to one metre.

The UK government is set to introduce a ‘one metre plus’ rule for instances where two metres can’t be maintained.

A review is being undertaken by the Scottish Government on the distancing rule and its results are expected to be known in early July.

“I don’t want to invest in the signage and measures for two metre spacing, for it to move to one metre spacing before we even open, or soon afterwards,” Roberts said.

“I think a lot of people will be wanting to get some clarity from the Scottish Government.”

The amenity trust chief admitted that the cost of reopening the museum would be high.

Possible costs have been worked through by management, right down to how many times a visitor would use hand sanitiser during an average trip to the museum.

There are also possible expenses in areas like extra cleaning, one-way systems, floor signs and a bookings system.

Footfall into the museum would also likely be down, not just from a capacity point of view but also from a reduced number of tourists.

“It will cost us significant sums of money to reopen, and we have to balance that against our responsibility to deliver on the fact that it is the people of Shetland that paid for the museum service, so they might reasonably expect us to provide the museum as soon as we can safely do so,” Roberts said.

“It needs to be safe for our staff and our customers. To do what we need to have some confidence that the investments that we make are going to have some enduring value. The big one on that is whether it will be two metres or one metre.

“We are doing a detailed costed plan based on the government guidance, making some estimates on what sort of visitor numbers we might expect.

“We’re looking for more guidance on some of the more detailed technical aspects, about trying to balance the risk between having additional staff to supervise visitors to the museum, but not wanting to expose any more staff than we need to to any risk. It is a difficult conundrum.”

The coffee shop in the museum, meanwhile, is set to remain closed in 2020 after its operators ruled it was not financially viable to stay open without summer trade.

Coffee shop in museum won’t re-open this year as lack of summer trade makes cafe ‘unviable’