By Ruben Lowman
Gov. Henry McMaster continued his loosening of COVID-19 restrictions by announcing last week that attractions will be allowed to reopen.
The governor has spent the past month gradually permitting certain sectors of the economy to be reopened with more relaxed social distancing guidelines in place. The guidelines were created by McMaster’s AccelerateSC task force, which has been charged with devising the safest ways to rejuvenate South Carolina’s economy.
The businesses deemed “attraction facilities” that are permitted to reopen include museums, aquariums, putt-putt golf courses, zoos, planetariums, water parks, amusement parks, historic sites and bingo halls. They will be looked upon to follow the guidelines released by the governor and his task force to promote safety as the state begins to fully reawaken from the coronavirus-induced slumber of the last three months.
As the city’s only museum, the North Myrtle Beach Area Historical Museum has been closed since the government shutdown was implemented in mid-March.
Cathy Altman, the museum’s executive director, was asked how she was dealing with everything, and she gave an update on the museum.
After two months of having no customers to talk to and educate about the area’s rich history, Altman is relieved and pleased to finally get back to doing the work she is most passionate for. She explained how thorough she is being cleaning and sanitizing the museum and its many exhibits, and the little details she is focusing on to ensure visitors are safe, comfortable and enjoy their experience.
“We are very pleased and happy to reopen from the closures and we are making every effort to keep the museum sanitized,” she said. “I have protocols in place, such as when people come in I then go and wipe down the doors and I encourage them to use hand sanitizer. If I send some people in one direction, one group, and then if another group comes in I send them in another direction to the other end of the museum and then they can cut through so they don’t have to cross each other. They can come back through the lobby and circle around. So we’re trying to make things very easy for our visitors, as we want them to enjoy the museum.”
Altman also said that she personally guides guests through the museum, both to create an intimate environment and help prevent people from needlessly coming into contact with the museum’s many surfaces. “I also walk with people and I ask them not to touch items because it’s very difficult for me to sanitize every item all the time. So I’m trying to take precautions such as that.”
The museum has interactive classes for children, as well, and Altman described how she is incorporating them into the museum’s safety policy.
“Whenever we have a children’s group we’ve also got some protocols in place.” She continued, “For instance, we do a yoga class and we’re hoping to be restarting that very soon. They will use our event room and they will enter into the event room and will not have to come through the museum. So we‘ve got some protocols in place for that as well.”
Altman understands that everyone is facing a challenging time right now and she simply asks that visitors remember to respect the personal space of others and continue to socially distance themselves while inside the museum.
“Just be respectful of other people’s space, the social distancing. And to just understand that this is difficult and different for everyone. So please just be respectful of others.”
All things considered, Altman is happy that residents and visitors can return to the museum she has worked tirelessly for going on two decades. She said the shutdown enabled her to add a few new things and alter elements of some exhibits, and she encourages the public to come and check them out.
“We do hope people will come visit the museum,” she said. “We’ve made a few changes while we’ve been closed, I’m still tweaking some of those, but we have made a few changes to some of the exhibits. So if they’ve been here before maybe they’ll want to come back and see what’s new.”