Navigating Iowa State Museums during COVID-19


Policies have changed for the museums at Iowa State due to the pandemic. 

Olivia Ruf

This year, University Museums has been working to create a safer, more accessible viewing experience for the Iowa State community amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

By offering virtual programs and prerecorded tours of exhibits along with socially distant in-person tours of the museums, University Museums is offering more options to visitors and students. 

University Museums consists of Brunnier Art Museum, Christian Petersen Art Museum, Farm House Museum, Art on Campus Collection and the Anderson Sculpture Garden.

“With the amount of space we have in our museums, there is always room for social distancing and because we encourage masks, it’s a great way to get out of the house,” said Sydney Marshall, an assistant curator with University Museums.

The University Museums staff has been working in person, even over the summer, when all of the museums were closed, to make content for virtual tours and to plan ahead for the fall semester, which has been successful, according to Marshall. 

Marshall said the Christian Petersen Art Museum put up a permanent collection of items with a different schedule so they were able to open in the fall on the first day of class. 

“Our only difference this year is on Mondays and Tuesdays at Christian Petersen we are reservation only so we don’t have someone walking in with 20 other students in the same place,” Marshall said. “This way it’s easier to clean after groups and it gives us flexibility.” 

For students and visitors who are not comfortable or are unable to physically come to the museums, University Museums is offering livestreams and recordings of their tours. 

“We have worked with faculty across campus to offer a Webex-like format where we come into class and give a presentation,” said Lilah Anderson, the educator of visual literacy and learning. “As far as our in-person participation, a lot of museum entities are experiencing a lower amount of people, but we have had a higher digital presence this semester.” 

The Farm House Museum differs from the other University Museums because it is a much smaller space. Due to this, the second floor has been closed to the public to respect social distancing guidelines. 

Anderson said the museums are also following all of the Cyclones Care guidelines and limiting capacity at each museum to 50 percent and cleaning high-touch surfaces more often. Anderson said they sanitize chairs during in-person events as well.  

“Just like Iowa State is requiring masks, we ask that everyone wears masks as well unless they are unable. We have hand sanitizer at the entrance of every one of our spaces. Some of our spaces also have Plexiglas separating our staff from the visitors,” Marshall said. 

Brunnier Art Museum will be open the weekend after Thanksgiving on Nov. 28 and 29 only during select hours. Otherwise, the museums will have regular hours during the university break. The museums are open to the public from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Friday. They are open to the public Saturdays and Sundays from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. 

“We will be closing for changing exhibitions and then open for the spring semester,” Marshall said. “Next semester we will have new exhibitions in all of our spaces, which will be exciting.” 

In-person programs will be limited to 10 people, unless otherwise noted. Attendees must preregister via the online calendar system. Registration for in-person events is available on a first-come first-serve basis, according to the University Museums website. 

Many programs will be available virtually through the University Museums YouTube page. Some programs will also be broadcast on Facebook Live on the program’s Facebook page at a specific time and then later uploaded to YouTube. To find upcoming events, visit the University Museums website or Facebook events.

“We spent a long time in the beginning of the pandemic writing out our procedures and they’ve been going well so far, so we plan on continuing them,” Anderson said. “Right now, we imagine our spring semester to stay about the same and we’re monitoring the situation, but if something were to change then we would readjust.”