“Now that Ventura and Los Angeles and Orange County are all at (the red tier) technically, following county and state guidelines, the Nixon library and the Reagan library could reopen,” said Melissa Giller, chief marketing officer of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute in Simi Valley, referring to the changes. “But because we're part of NARA (the National Archives and Records Administration), we have to wait for their permission.”
The NARA guidelines, which dictate the reopening requirements of all buildings on federal property — including presidential libraries — follow a similar structure to the California tier system based on COVID-19 transmission, death and vaccination rates, but have different thresholds for each level. For now, the NARA guidelines remain in their most restrictive phase and federal museums are closed and all employees continue working from home.
Giller said the Reagan Foundation isn’t certain when NARA restrictions will ease, but she is hoping for a June reopening. As they get closer to welcoming guests back to the grounds, they’ll need to hire and train staff to replace the employees and volunteers who were laid off at thebeginning of the pandemic. Most of the volunteers, Giller said, are near retirement age and of higher risk for coronavirus complications but have been particularly enthusiastic about returning.
“There seems to be a lot of pent-up demand from people who want to start going back to museums again, which is really great,” Giller said. “And we just hope that we can open our doors soon to allow them to visit us too.”
Under the less restrictive red tier, to which both L.A. and Ventura County moved this week, indoor museum activities may resume at 25 percent capacity, with social distancing and masking required. While they’re excited to reopen, some said the business shift caused by the lockdowns will leave lasting effects.
At California Museum of Art Thousand Oaks, director Roya Alt said the economic impacts of the lockdowns have been substantial, but the pandemic also led to creative problem-solving solutions in the museum that they plan to continue using after restrictions end. The small gallery in the Oaks mall hasn’t been able to have guests since its doors closed last March, but it has pivoted to largely online events that have been very successful.
“Since closure, (we’ve) presented virtual opportunities for children, adults and families to help them stay connected to art and ideas, and to continue fulfilling our mission of inspiring our community through the visual arts,” Alt said, referencing the calendar of online events now offered by the museum. “It’s been remarkable to watch these programs create community between people who live, in some cases, thousands of miles away from each other but who are drawn together through a love of creativity and the fundamental need to connect.”
This week, Alt said, board members of CMATO will vote on when they plan to resume in-person activities and gallery showings. In addition to continuing the online offerings, the museum will offer extended showings of exhibits that were closed in the wake of the lockdowns: “Defining Beauty,” CMATO’s third annual international juried art exhibition, and “Jonathan Michael Castillo: Car Culture,” a photographic series of L.A.'s driving culture.
Several other museums in the area remain closed or hosting exclusively outdoor or online exhibits, but others are slowly increasing their indoor capacity, following county restrictions. The Lancaster Museum of Art and History partially reopens today, beginning the process of bringing guests back to their three campuses. MOAH: Cedar and the Elyze Clifford Interpretive Center plan to reopen by the end of the month.
“This is the first of many re-openings we anticipate in the coming weeks. We are looking forward to welcoming the community back to some of our beloved activities,” said Council Member Raj Mahli in a press release. “The pandemic has strengthened our resolve and our resilience. We are moving forward together and will be stronger than ever.”