As communities begin to lift COVID-19 restrictions, many museums across the country may finally reopen. Book a ticket, venture out, and you will find that your favorite artifacts patiently await your return, and museum staff have used their “free time” to put on new exhibits and create new experiences. Many free admission programs to museums are also making a comeback.

“While visiting the museum may seem a little different, whether it is improved cleaning procedures or wearing masks, visitors can expect a safe experience in which their curiosity is aroused and they feel reconnected to their communities, ”said Laura Lott, president and CEO of the American Alliance of Museums.

Here are some museums where you can start to reconnect.

“Bring us back together”:H. Beecher Hicks III on the opening of the National Museum of African American Music

‘Pawns & Passports’ at the World Chess Hall of Fame, St. Louis

To inspire travel planning, the World Chess Hall of Fame in St. Louis is stepping up with “Pawns & Passports,” an exhibit featuring over 50 chess sets celebrating popular culture from different regions, including a game of chess. Russian chess made from ancient ivory mammoths and an elegant Chinese puzzle ball with carved concentric spheres. The exhibition runs from June 3 to January 30, 2022. A virtual tour of the exhibition will be available.

‘Driven to Win: Racing in America’ at the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation, Dearborn, Michigan

A look inside "Driven to Win: Racing in America" at the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation in Dearborn, Michigan.

The sprawling Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation in Dearborn, Michigan, is now open daily and comes alive with a new permanent exhibit on American auto racing. “Driven to Win: Racing in America” ​​celebrates stock cars, sports cars, drag racing, dirt speed racing and more, with many interactive displays, historic racing cars and simulators race. The 80-acre outdoor Greenfield Village reopened on April 17, but only Thursday through Sunday for now due to the pandemic. The longtime Motor Muster in Greenfield Village returns on Father’s Day weekend.

‘Kusama: Cosmic Nature’ at the New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, New York

Dancing pumpkin" is part of the works of the Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama presented at "Kusama: cosmic nature" at the New York Botanical Garden.

A celebration of the wonderfully imaginative artwork of Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama, who has always been fascinated by nature and has a whimsical take on nature, runs through October 31 on the garden’s 250 acres New York botany. The Kusama buyout includes new monumental sculptures; large floral installations; and soon, a new Infinity Mirrored Room experience. A variety of special programs accompany the exhibition, including pop-up shows on weekends and activities for children.

‘SOLDIER | ARTIST: Trench Art in World War II’ at the National WWII Museum, New Orleans

SOLDIER / ARTIST: The art of the trenches during WWII at the National WWII Museum in New Orleans includes works of art, memorabilia and tools made from discarded materials and war waste.

In New Orleans, the National WWII Museum exhibits “SOLDIER | ARTIST: The Art of the Trenches in WWII ”features over 150 artifacts exploring the unique military hobby of creating art, memorabilia and tools from discarded materials and war waste . The collection ranges from ashtrays and jewelry to radios and musical instruments made by prisoners of war. The exhibition runs until January 2, 2022.

‘The American Struggle’ by Jacob Lawrence, at the Seattle Art Museum

Jacob Lawrence's revolutionary 30-panel series,

Jacob Lawrence’s groundbreaking 30-panel series, “Struggle: From the History of the American People,” painted 1954 through 1956, is brought together for the first time since 1958 in a traveling exhibition at the Seattle Art Museum through May 23. Modernist paintings depict pivotal moments from the American Revolution to expanding westward, with blacks, women, and Native Americans in central roles. It is the only West Coast location for the exhibit, which will be at the Phillips Collection, Washington, DC, from June 26 to September 19. SAM The Seattle Museum has paired this exhibit with works of art by young contemporary artists who respond to the work and address the ongoing American struggle.

‘#HashtagTheCowboy’ at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, Oklahoma City

Tim Tiller took over social media from the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum during the shutdown and became an internet sensation.  Here he is pictured with his coffee mug and fan gifts at the "#HastagLeCowboy" exhibition in Oklahoma City.

During the shutdown, the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City handed over the reins of its social media account to the facility’s chief security officer, Tim Tiller. The internet has gone crazy. “People around the world have been drawn to Tim’s positive messages and have had the chance to learn something about the history and art of the American West,” said President and CEO of the American West. Natalie Shirley Museum. Now that the museum has reopened, there is a “#HashtagTheCowboy” exhibit that features Tiller’s famous coffee mug and some of the gifts and artwork sent in by fans.

Virtual museum experiences don’t go away

During the pandemic, exhibits and virtual experiences were the only way for many museums to connect with their audiences. There were challenges – and benefits.

“In response to the challenge of the pandemic, we have reached 7 million virtual visitors through live and guided programming and on-demand content in 2020,” said Kyle Young, CEO of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville, Tennessee. “This is something that we will continue to do.”

Nudie's Rodeo Tailors crafted this blue stage costume embellished with rhinestones and embroidered with Chinese New Year designs for country music singer Hank Snow.

Indeed, the museum has just unveiled two new online exhibitions with free access. “Suiting the Sound: The Rodeo Tailors Who Made Country Stars Shine Brighter” explores the art of Western clothing designers whose couture designs helped create the image of country music’s “rhinestone cowboy”. “Dylan, Cash and the Nashville Cats: A New Music City” explores Bob Dylan’s recordings in Nashville in the 1960s, the role that Johnny Cash’s groundbreaking television show played in expanding the perception of Nashville and ace session musicians known as the “Nashville Cats”. The museum also offers a variety of educational programs, including a collaboration with Nashville Fashion Week.

Free entry to the museum

Although the pandemic has deeply affected the budgets of nonprofits, many museums are reopening with free admission and discount programs intact. Others continue to participate in programs offering free passes to museums, such as the Blue Star Museums (for active duty military personnel, including the National Guard and Reserves and their families), Museums for All (for SNAP program participants), Bank of America’s Museums on American Program (for those with Bank of America or Merrill credit or debit cards) and the North American Reciprocal Museum Association, with over 1,000 arts institutions and cultural events that honor the membership cards of other institutions in the network.

Additionally, the Smithsonian Magazine Museum Day, which was canceled in 2020, returns on September 18 with free admission to more than 600 participating museums, gardens, zoos and attractions.


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