Museums and other cultural sites around Richmond have begun creating plans to reopen, with events and exhibitions slowly emerging over the next few weeks and months.

However, with safety at the forefront, 22 local sites have issued a collective statement on procedures and protocols, which reads:

"As our Commonwealth enters into Phase Two and our city prepares to, we want to assure all attendees that we are committed to providing everyone with safe, secure, and supportive access to our facilities. In the midst of a pandemic and a region-wide reassessment of our fraught racial history, we believe our cultural resources play an important role during these uncertain times. While we anticipate most sites will open in some capacity by early July, we will continue to use these shared principles and the facts on the ground to ensure the best experience for our visitors."

For example, sites will require masks for visitors, staff and volunteers, reduce capacities to allow for social distancing and encourage contactless payment methods by credit card whenever possible. Programming that attracts large groups will temporarily be suspended, and hands-on displays or exhibits will be altered to prevent such interactions.

The 22 institutions behind the statement are: Agecroft Hall and Gardens; the American Civil War Museum; Beth Ahabah Museum and Archives; the Black History Museum And Cultural Center of Virginia; the Branch Museum of Architecture and Design; the Children's Museum of Richmond; Henricus Historical Park; the Institute for Contemporary Art; John Marshall House; Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden; the Library of Virginia; Maymont; the Poe Museum; Preservation Virginia; St. John's Church Foundation; the Science Museum of Virginia; the Valentine; the Valentine First Freedom Center; the Virginia Holocaust Museum; the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts; the Virginia Museum of History and Culture; and the Wilton House Museum. 

While all of these sites have very different needs in terms of size, attendance and content, "we're all able to come together and agree on these sets of principles," said Eric Steigleder, the Valentine's communications director. "It says a lot about the institutions in the community [being] really committed to opening our doors and providing places for people to go and see either history or art reflected in their lives, but in a safe way."

***

Using Richmond's current political and social climate as the backdrop, the Black History Museum & Cultural Center of Virginia presents "Voices of Change," a pre-recorded video series featuring people from around the community talking about social justice. The first video airs Thursday, June 18 at 2 p.m., and the topic is protests.

Speakers include Dr. Monroe Harris, museum board chairman; author and historian Elvatrice Belsches; William H. "Bucky" Neal III; Suzanne Spooner-Munch; and Brittany J. Harris, vice president of learning and innnovation at The Winters Group.

Andrea Wright, the museum's director of communications and development, shared that the videos are meant to start conversations from people throughout the community on social justice.

"We recognize we can't change the world with a few short videos," she said by email. "What we hope is by asking individuals to give pause, reflect on their own thoughts, behaviors, and actions, we can serve as a catalyst for change in systems."

The public is encouraged to join the video virtually through a link provided by the museum. It will remain on the website for viewing.

For details, visit www.blackhistorymuseum.org.

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The Valentine will be installing photos externally from its "Voices from Richmond's Hidden Epidemic," which focused on HIV/AIDS, to allow patrons to see the exhibition images as they walk past the museum. The museum remains closed. 

Large black-and-white photographs of people - front line medical workers, individuals who were diagnosed, the faith community - will be hung in the museum's windows. The exhibition told stories from real people involved with the HIV/AIDS epidemic. 

"When you think of HIV/AIDs, you think of something from the past, something that's been either dealt with or we've figured out how to handle," said the Valentine's Steigleder. "For so many people, that isn't the case."

While it was largely considered a disease that affected young white men, increasingly, Steigleder said, it has impacted black communities, particularly black women. Through the photos, which are hanging now and will remain indefinitely, "you're seeing a lot of faces that you might not necessarily expect."

For more information, visit www.thevalentine.org.

***

Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden will open to members later this month, followed by the general public in July, though there will be vast changes in order to comply with safety standards. 

Members-only days are June 25-28; July 2, 3 and 5; and July 9-12. The garden will open to the public July 16. Tickets will be limited, and visitors will choose arrival times. Visits will be limited to two hours.

The garden plans to reopen to the public on Thursday, July 16, and be open Thursdays through Sundays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. 

Visitors will be able to see the garden's newest exhibit - M&T Bank Wind Waves and Light: Art in Motion - through Oct. 18.

Created by George Sherwood, large stainless steel sculptures move and change with the wind, bringing to mind flocks of birds or schools of fish, and waves of light and water. 

"Ever since the garden closed on March 15, we’ve been hard at work planning how we might reopen with safety as our top priority," said Beth Monroe, Lewis Ginter public relations and marketing director. "We’re excited about being able to welcome visitors, share the Garden and serve our community again."

For more information, visit www.lewisginter.org.

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