PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Museums and cultural institutions have been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. The Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh are seeing much smaller numbers of visitors this summer, just like museums around the country.
The spacious galleries of the Carnegie Museum of Art lend themselves to social distancing. And with timed ticketing, masking, filtered air conditioning and sanitizing, all four Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh are doing all they can to make it safe.
“We actually have devices that enable us to monitor whether there are germs on railings and things like that. So we’re using very sophisticated technology for that purpose,” says Steve Knapp, president and CEO of the four Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh — Art, Natural History, the Science Center and the Warhol Museum.
He took the helm just six weeks before the pandemic forced the museums to close for 15 weeks. He says despite the safety measures they have since enacted, they are seeing much fewer visitors than usual.
“Our biggest challenge right now is that we’re only seeing between a fifth and a third (of the normal number of visitors), depending on the day. So we are really averaging about 20-25 percent of the visitors that we saw last year at this time, and, of course, that places a huge financial burden on us,” Knapp says.
He presumes people are being drawn outside, where health experts say it’s safest and where it’s been dry much of the summer. Employees have created all kinds of virtual programming, like online gallery tours, live Zoom interviews with experts and at-home science experiments.
But as school starts online for many families, Knapp hopes they and others will see the museum as a great place to visit.
“We’re hoping they’ll see us as a respite and an educational opportunity for their children that goes beyond sitting behind a computer screen,” he says.
The Carnegie Museums were not able to get any PPP money because all four museums employ more than 500 people. In fact, they had to layoff 500 people, many who were part-time workers, but they have brought back most of them.
They hope with the cooler weather coming soon, people will venture back to indoor places.