Practical ways museums can contribute during the Covid-19 crisis

Responding to the urgent needs in our communities 
Yosola Olorunshola
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Museums around the UK are rallying to support the NHS and vulnerable people in response to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Despite the challenges facing the sector, museums are well placed to respond to some of the urgent needs in our communities and provide practical support. 

Here are a few ways your museum can help: 

1. Donate vital protective equipment to your local NHS trust 

Museums around the world are donating personal protective equipment to hospitals to help healthcare professionals treat Covid-19 patients safely. The National Museum Directors’ Council (NMDC) has highlighted that museums can provide gloves, plastic aprons, hats, shoe covers and FFP3 masks to help fill the gap. 

The best way to donate equipment is to contact your local NHS trust. If you need advice on how to approach them, please contact Bethany Reynard, public affairs officer at NMDC: bethany.reynard@nationalmuseums.org.uk 

2. Encourage your staff or volunteers to become an NHS volunteer responder 

The NHS is seeking an “army” of volunteers to support the 1.5 million people most at risk from the virus. 

With the closure of museums across the UK, many museum workers may be in a position where they are able to offer a few hours of time to join this cohort. The ways to support include: delivering supplies to someone who is self-isolating; transporting patients back home once they have been discharged; transporting supplies between NHS sites; or setting up a phone call with someone who is at risk of loneliness at this time.  

More than 500,000 people have already signed up – it's still possible to register and play a part in the efforts. 


3. Support efforts to protect homeless communities

The Museum of Homelessness is also calling for donations of personal protective equipment to be used in supporting homeless communities through the crisis. 

They are currently organising a taskforce to support people living on the streets or awaiting spots in hotels by providing food. As day centres and services shut down, there are fewer places to find food so please contact Jess or Matt Turtle at the Museum of Homelessness if you are able to recommend any food suppliers. 

To help directly in your area, consider joining your local taskforce, or ask your local authority what help is needed. 

4. Connect with people affected by dementia 

Arts, heritage and culture can play a vital role in the lives and wellbeing of people living with and affected by dementia. The Alzheimer’s Society is asking museums and heritage organisations to support people affected by dementia at this difficult time to keep them connected to culture and their community in new and creative ways. 

Here are some of the key actions you can do to make a difference to people’s lives:

• Distribute printed reminiscence packs to allow people to enjoy activities at home 
• Advertise any virtual tours of places, museums or lend out gift DVDs 
• Host online screenings or showings 
• Live stream or televise your planned activities so people can stay active and engaged at home 
• Reach out to volunteer networks to help you reach people in your community 

For people affected by dementia seeking advice and support, the Alzheimer’s Society’s National Dementia Helpline number is 0300 222 1122. 

Besides these practical actions, there are plenty of ways your museum can continue to connect with audiences digitally. We’ll be sharing tips and updates continuously over this period to support members and the sector at large, so check back here for more ideas soon. 


Image credit: Liz Hide (Sedgwick Museum) / SHARE Museums East 


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