After an extended shutdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Harvard Museums of Science and Culture and its programs reopened to both Harvard affiliates and the general public last week.
As of Nov. 26, individuals can now visit the institutions in person. The HMSC is made up of four different museums that reside on Harvard’s Cambridge campus: the Harvard Museum of Natural History, the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, the Harvard Museum of the Ancient Near East, and the Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments.
The partnership between Harvard’s museums was established nearly a decade ago by former Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Michael D. Smith to further coordinate the work and public image of the separate research museums.
"The HMSC mission is to foster curiosity and a spirit of discovery in visitors of all ages by enhancing public understanding of and appreciation for the natural world, science, and human cultures," according to the partnership’s mission statement.
Over the course of the pandemic, the museums continued to offer resources to engage their visitors. This effort included virtual tours, informational podcasts, and a virtual iteration of their Summer Solstice Festival.
Recently, the museums’ administrators decided to shift their programming efforts back to in-person.
To reduce risk, they established new admissions policies for in-person visitors. In line with University and local business practices, the museums now require proof of vaccination or a negative covid test 72 hours before arrival. Visitors are also required to reserve their tickets for specific time slots throughout the day.
Several museum guests said they are very excited about the reopening and praised the security measures put in place for the transition back to in-person programming.
Museum visitor Anna Burkles said she found the timed ticket reservations convenient and said that she believed the safety precautions were necessary.
"Everything seems really thoughtfully done and safe,” she said. “It's nice to know that you can show up somewhere, and it's not going to be insanely busy."
She also said she is glad that the museums are available for her two children to explore.
"It's nice to have something in the neighborhood that is easy to get to and is interesting for them," she added.
The opening of the museum also benefited college students living off of Harvard's campus, such as University of Massachusetts Boston student Mackenzie Cahill. She added that she was able to explore exhibits, such as the mammals exhibit in the Museum of Natural Sciences, that related to her studies.
"I was really excited about the museum being open because I got to visit some exhibits that I learned about in some of my classes," she said.