Museums in Ardmore, Wilson reopen after one year of locked doors
Museums in Carter County are taking a cautious approach to reopening to the public after a year of locked doors and limited programming. The Greater Southwest Historical Museum, Military Memorial Museum and Wilson Historical Museum each say exhibits are again available but during reduced hours as recommendations from public health officials are relaxed for those vaccinated.
“We’ve got to ease into it to see how it’s going to work,” said Wes Hull, director of the Greater Southwest Historical Museum and Military Memorial Museum, on Wednesday.
The museums expect to reopen on Tuesday, May 25 after more than 14 months of locked doors due to the coronavirus pandemic. Hull said that a limited number of volunteers means the museums will only be open Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m.
“We’re a little short on staff to operate the five days here,” Hull said.
In Wilson, the historical museum reopened to the public on Saturdays from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. Wilson Historical Society President Melinda Taylor said last month that reopening would be considered once the number of active COVID-19 cases recorded in Carter County fell below 50.
The Oklahoma State Department of Health reported 38 active cases of the disease in Carter County on May 5 and 28 cases on May 12. While open to the public only one day per week, Taylor said telephone research services remain popular.
“We are taking appointments for weekdays or evenings and had our first field trip of the year last week,” Taylor said on Tuesday.
She said guests will be required to wear masks inside. As the museum begins the reopening process, Taylor is already inviting school children to begin lending items for a special exhibit in July.
"We're wanting to encourage the kids to bring in things they've found, old things. It doesn't matter if it's an arrowhead or some old toy," she said. "They can bring things in anytime and we'll put it in in July."
Taylor said the exhibit items will be on loan and returned to the children after the display is over.
While the soft reopenings indicate a return to normal after more than a year of pandemic precautions, museum directors must still consider the health and safety of patrons and staff.
Hull said that visitors to the Ardmore museum will be asked to not touch any of the displays for safety reasons. Staff will continue to sanitize high traffic items like doorknobs and some patrons will still be asked to wear masks.
“Even though there are vaccinations I still want to be careful,” Hull said, adding that his staff consists of older volunteers. Vaccinated guests will not be required to wear masks and Hull hopes an honor system will prompt unvaccinated guests to wear masks and keep his staff safe.
Even with the level of safety that continues to be taken, museums are looking forward to reopening to provide services and destinations for locals and travelers.
“They’re anxious to get back,” Hull said of his volunteers.
This story has been updated to include comments from Melinda Taylor about the Wilson Historical Museum