An Intern’s Journey; Chapter 12: Road to Re-Opening

Last blog post, we featured two guest writers from the Western Public History program discussing Banting’s time here in London! We hope you enjoyed learning a bit more about his time leading up to the discovery of the idea of insulin!

This week, I thought I would talk about some more behind the scenes at Banting House! A few weeks back, I talked about what it was like to complete an internship during a pandemic, and now its time to talk about what the road to re-opening has been like!

Unfortunately, at this current time, Banting House NHS has not re-opened! As much as we want to, there are a lot of things to consider and obstacles to navigate.

What are some of these obstacles?
  • Until stage 2, we weren’t allowed to re-open! Government and health restrictions played a rightful and valid part in why many services, institutions and museums haven’t reopened yet!
  • How do we safely re-open given the physical restraints of a small house museum?
  • How do we keep both our visitors and volunteers safe?
  • How do we ensure that proper cleaning is done between each visitor? What about materials that can’t be cleaned with items such like bleach?
  • How do we contact trace?
  • How do we ensure people aren’t visiting while experiencing mild symptoms? Or who have traveled/potentially come into contact with someone who is positive/asymptomatic?
  • How do we follow the mandated guidelines set out by the government?
  • Where do we get funding to purchase PPE equipment and cleaning supplies?

There’s a lot to think about and plan for before even thinking of re-opening! On top of that, Banting House had been undergoing restorations to the house (such as the windows, which is why it looked like the building was boarded up!) prior to quarantine. As a result, all the restorations have been pushed back and currently there is restoration equipment in various parts of the house! This is another obstacle that we have to navigate. We want to ensure the best possible experience for our visitors, and having equipment in our exhibit rooms, could impact that!

So what is Banting House doing?

We do have clearance and plans to re-open, we are just unsure of when exactly we can do so! Some PPE equipment has been purchased and we are currently just looking at finding Plexiglas barriers for our desks. In preparation for visitors we are creating an FAQ, important information, and tour page that will lay out guidelines, rules and hopefully answering questions about how tours will run for the foreseeable future. As an example, tour groups will be much smaller to stay in accordance with government guidelines AND spaced out, so that cleaning and sanitizing can be done between each group.

We have also created a waiver/release form that all guests will have to fill out prior to their tour! This will also help us contact trace if the need ever arose.

The health and safety of our volunteers are also extremely important! As mentioned in a previous blog post, we wouldn’t be able to do half the things we can, without our volunteers! While maintaining safe experience for our visitors, we also need to make sure that our volunteers are safe! For someone living with type 1 diabetes like myself, I will have to continue to do more behind the scenes work rather than guide tours! We are incredibly lucky to have so many volunteers who are eager to return to the museum and start guiding tours again!

Takeaways for the week:

  • The health and safety of our community, volunteers and visitors will ALWAYS be the top priority.
  • No one wants to re-open as much as museums, historic sites and institutions themselves!
  • This pandemic really highlighted how much the community wants and needs museums, historic sites and other institutions. Sometimes we may forget just how many people appreciate the work we do!
  • Community support is what gives institutions the motivation to keep trying during times like this.
  • We are living through a historic moment, take time to recognize that our future children, grandchildren and even great grandchildren might have to do an oral history project with you on this event!

We can’t wait to see you all very soon, make sure to follow our social medias for any and all re-opening information and updates!

This post was written by Kat MacDonald, an intern at Banting House NHSC. Kat is currently completing her M.A. in Public History at Western University.

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