NMDC Good Practice Guidelines for Reopening Museums

Coronavirus restrictions in England remain in place. You must follow the rules in this guidance.

The government has published the 'COVID-19 Response - Spring 2021' setting out the roadmap out of the current lockdown for England. This explains how restrictions will be eased over time.

A new COVID-19 variant is spreading in some parts of England. There may be additional advice for your area. Find out what you should do.

Published by the National Museum Directors’ Council (NMDC) with support from DCMS and the Museums and Galleries Working Group, these guidelines are intended to help employers, employees and the self-employed, and volunteers in the museum sector in England understand how to work safely during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The guidelines should:

  • provide a set of practical considerations museums will want to work through before a museum is ready to reopen
  • be used in conjunction with COVID-safe guidelines published by HM Government, and is intended to enhance, not supplant existing regulations
  • sit alongside and inform existing business practices and standard structures museums already consider when managing risk and conducting business planning activities

The guidelines will periodically be updated when new Government guidance becomes available as we move through different steps of adjustment to lockdown.

To download the guidelines please click here, or please see below to read them on this page.


Are these guidelines just for national museums?

No, these guidelines are for all museums in England. Museums in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales will also find the guidelines useful, but they should also refer to other relevant guidance for each country within the UK where available. 

Scottish Government guidance for museums, galleries and heritage attractions is available here.

Welsh Government guidance for Culture and heritage destinations and venues is available here.

How do we support NHS Test and Trace?

NHS Test and Trace is a key part of the country’s on-going COVID-19 response. Museums are required to support this service by keeping a temporary record of their staff shift patterns, customers and visitors for 21 days, and by assisting NHS Test & Trace with requests for that data if necessary.

Hospitality businesses (including cafés and restaurants in museums and galleries) are required to display a QR code for use with the NHS app. Information on generating one of these QR codes is available here. Department of Health and Social Care guidance for maintaining records of staff, customers and visitors is available here.

Can tour groups still visit museums?

At Step 3, unless a specific exemption exists, tour groups may only visit in line with wider social contact limits currently in place. This means that tours may only be held for a group of 6 people or 2 households indoors, or in a group of no more than 30 people in outdoor settings.

Tour guides do not count towards the 6 person limit indoors or the 30 person limit outdoors, due to the exemption for work.

Can school groups still visit museums?

NMDC is expecting updates to regulations on school groups, and we hope to be able to update the guidance shortly.

Where can I find information on exemptions to mandatory face coverings?

Information on exemptions to face covering requirements are available here, and badges for those wishing to indicate their exemption are available here

Where can I find information on forming a support bubble?

Information on making a support bubble with another household is available here.

My museum isn’t planning to open yet, will the guidelines be updated?

Yes, NMDC will work with DCMS to reflect the most up to date Government position and update with any new additional information to consider.

Once museums begin to open, there will be opportunities to learn from experience and incorporate further considerations as they are identified, for example on social distancing, experience, accessibility and how learning activities can be delivered.

How was this guidance developed?

NMDC’s Planning and Remobilisation Group worked together with the DCMS Cultural Renewal Taskforce Subgroup on Museums and Galleries and other museum sector colleagues to develop the guidelines. The Museums Association, Association for Independent Museums and Arts Council England will also be sharing the guidelines and providing further signposting to additional resources where appropriate.

I can’t find the information I need, where do I find more information and support?

There is a list of other organisations publishing resources and providing assistance at the end of the Guidelines document.


  • May 18th, 2021
    • Pages 1 and 2 altered in light of progress to Step 3.
    • Pages 16 and 22 updated with new social distancing information.
  • May 5th, 2021:
    • Pages 1 and 2 altered to contain more detail on restrictions in Step 3, including limits on indoor groups and advice to continue limiting contacts in short periods of time.
    • Page 38 updated to include link to government Safer Travel Guidance for Passengers.
  • April 23rd, 2021:
    • Page 19 updated to include information on ventilation. 
    • Section added at page 22 to reflect the need to continue to practice safety measures with tested or vaccinated staff or visitors.
  • April 21st, 2021:
    • Page 12 updated to include new COVID-safety certification image
  • April 7th, 2021:
    • Pages 1 and 2 altered to reflect replacement of tier system with step system.
    • Page 8 edited in light of new stricter requirements for the collection and storage of data for Test & Trace.
    • Page 19 updated to reflect new legislation on mass gatherings in the step system.
    • Page 29 changed to reflect new step system's effect on museum & gallery café and retail areas.
    • Page 32 no longer includes reference to readiness for further lockdowns.
    • FAQ edited to reflect ending of the tier system.
  • February 12th, 2021:
    • Page 37 updated to include new requirements for international arrivals.
  • January 4th, 2021:
  • Page 1, 2 and 29 updated to reference addition of Tier 4: Stay at Home
    • Page 20 updated to outline new measures under Tier 4: non-essential retail must close and further limits to contact between households.
  • December 2nd, 2020:
    • Page 1 updated to reference new government tier regulations, in force from December 2nd.
    • Page 2 edited to reflect new limits on capacity of event and conference venues.
    • Page 9 altered to align with Government guidance on working from home.
    • Pages 28 and 29 updated to include regulations on new local restriction tiers for museum cafes and restaurants.
  • October 21st, 2020:
    • Pages 19, 20 and 29 changed to include further information on the implication of local alert levels for museums, including cafes and restaurants in museums.
  • October 13th, 2020:
    • Page one altered to reflect the new 'three-tier' lockdown regulations.
  • September 25th, 2020:
    • Page 8 altered to include new requirement for display of NHS Test & Trace QR code.
    • Page 11 changed to reflect new guidance on working from home.
    • Page 18 updated to reflect new enforcement requirements for the rule of six for gatherings.
    • Page 24 now includes reference to the fact that face coverings are compulsory for certain hospitality staff.
    • Page 28 changed to reflect new requirements for table service (please see FAQ above for an explanation of current rules)
    • FAQ updated to include current information on café and restaurant regulation.
  • September 17th, 2020:
    • FAQ updated to include current information on tour groups.
  • September 10th, 2020:
    • Page 8 updated as recording data for NHS Test & Trace has been made mandatory.
    • Page 19 altered to reflect new 6-person limit on social gatherings.
    • Page 28 now includes a link to Health and Safety Executive guidance on air conditioning and ventilation during the Coronavirus outbreak.
  • August 19th, 2020:
    • Page 8 changed to provide information on what data is needed for NHS Test & Trace program.
    • Page 20 altered to reflect current guidance on live performances and wedding and civil partnership celebrations.
  • August 11th, 2020:
    • Page 23 altered for further clarity around wearing of face coverings in museums.
  • August 6th, 2020:
    • Pages 23, 24 and 25 altered for further clarity around new government regulations which mandate wearing face coverings in museums from the 8th of August.
  • August 5th, 2020:
  • August 4th, 2020:
    • Pages 8 and 11 changed to reflect evolving guidance on working from home.
    • Page 13 updated with new guidelines on self-isolation.
    • Page 18 altered to reflect new timeline on indoor performances.
  • July 24th, 2020:
    • Introduction altered to include information of local restrictions.
    • Pages 23 and 24 updated to reflect new guidance on face coverings in shops.
  • July 21st, 2020:
    • Page 19 updated to reflect further guidance on live performances indoors.
    • Page 23 updated to include new requirements for face coverings in shops.
    • Page 24 updated to include guidance on disposal of face coverings.
  • July 9th, 2020:
    • Page 19 updated to reflect latest government guidance on live performances and the performing arts.
  • July 7th, 2020:
    • Introduction updated to include link to local Leicester lockdown guidance.
    • Page 6 updated to reference importance of fire risk assessment.
    • Page 19 now includes further detail on measures for COVID-19 secure premises.
    • Guidance on use of PPE (page 24) now includes reference to lip reading and clear communication.
  • July 3rd, 2020:
    • Page 8 updated to include a link to current Department of Health and Social Care guidance for maintaining records of staff, customers and visitors to support NHS Test and Trace.
  • July 1st, 2020: 
    • Two points of clarification added to page 19. First bullet point under 'Mass Gatherings' altered to clarify regulations around COVID-19 secure premises. Risk of 'droplets and' aerosol transmission added to second bullet point.
    • Page 34 altered to include exemptions to wearing a face covering on public transport.