Captain’s Rules: creative and Covid-safe wayfinding solutions - Museums Association

Captain’s Rules: creative and Covid-safe wayfinding solutions

A case study from Whitby’s Captain Cook Memorial Museum
Covid-19 Signage
Sophie Forgan
Captain Cook in a mask features in the museum's signage
Captain Cook in a mask features in the museum's signage

Social distancing created great problems for us at the Captain Cook Memorial Museum in Whitby, which is housed in a Grade I-listed house mostly composed of small rooms with a single main staircase, except on the first floor.

Normally visitors roam freely across our four floors without a strictly prescribed route. But Covid has necessitated a complete rethink, a lengthy risk assessment and some imagination to create the most acceptable solution.

We devised a system of timed tickets booked online, with parties limited to a maximum of six people who would move between floors every 15 minutes. Strategically placed volunteer attendants on the top and first floors sound the changeover bell on the quarter hour and ensure that parties do not meet while moving between floors.

Our approach to signage was simple and direct – and a visually striking picture of Captain Cook in a blue NHS mask was the key image, signalling our adherence to all necessary safety measures. It created a memorable version of a well-known picture. The idea of using the “Captain’s Rules” to ask people to move between floors was met by visitors with gently amused acceptance.

People did not feel they were being forced into a strictly prescribed pathway, but rather that they were participating in a scenario which related to the museum they were visiting. Visitors were extremely positive about their experience and the care taken by the staff and volunteers, several commenting during August when the town was busy that they felt safer in the museum than out on the street.

We have used the image on our website, outside the museum and on a banner hung by the bridge across the harbour. This helped to direct people to the museum when walking from the west to east side of the town. 


We used a freelance designer, with the cost of design and printing covered by our Arts Council emergency response grant.

Sophie Forgan is the chair of trustees at the Captain Cook Memorial Museum in Whitby

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