The University of Kansas Spencer Museum of Art opened its galleries to the public at the beginning of November after being closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
In August, the museum had a reopening phase that allowed KU classes to be held in the museum and allowed students and visitors to tour the galleries by appointment only, said Elizabeth Kanost, director of external affairs at the museum. But before that, the museum had been closed since March.
“Like all units at KU, we have had to adapt our practices to prioritize the safety of staff and visitors while ensuring we achieve our mission of connecting people with art and ideas,” Kanost said.
The museum is open for the month of November on Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. and visitors are allowed in the museum by reservation only to ensure a limited capacity and safe social distancing.
The museum established new COVID-19 protocols including the mandatory use of face masks and increased sanitization of public spaces to ensure a safe experience for all visitors, according to its visitor guidelines.
To ensure a limited capacity, virtual tours are also offered for visitors to engage with the Spencer and provide an interactive experience similar to an in-person tour.
“A silver lining of this moment has been the rapid development of digital resources for different audiences to engage with the Museum virtually,” Kanost said.
The museum plans to close on Tuesday, Nov. 24 to reinstall galleries with new exhibitions for visitors to experience in the spring.
“We can’t say with certainty what the spring will look like, but we are hopeful to open the galleries again with the start of the spring semester in February,” Kanost said.
Zachary Lacy, a junior from Overland Park studying art history, said in the past he had several art history classes in the museum, but due to the coronavirus, his two art classes this semester are completely virtual.
“I definitely don’t think art history students are insulated from the same problems collegiate students are facing across the nation,” Lacy said. “However, I think the loss of access to the [Spencer Museum’s] collection is physically a loss.”
The museum’s collection allows students to practice formal analysis on works of art, which in the case of three-dimensional works can be difficult to translate through digital media, Lacy said.
“A large component of effectively understanding the nuances of a work of art includes a high quality image,” he said. “It can be challenging for students working on laptops that don’t offer high resolution from home."
Despite the difficulties, Lacy understands the decisions of the Spencer Museum and is happy they’re reopening.
“I understand that I am not the one that is going to be exposed to the most risks, as the staff of the museum and faculty of the department would be most at risk,” Lacy said. “Therefore, they should be the key voices in [this situation].”
This story was updated Monday afternoon to reflect the most recent hours from the Spencer.