NMDC Good Practice Guidelines on Opening Museums After July 4th

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 to read it on this page please see below.

NMDC has also produced a timeline of possible stages of reopening, as there will be no single date on which all museums reopen, but rather a range of different approaches depending on the individual museum. The timeline can be found here.


Is there a date on which museums must open?

No, Government has announced that on the current trajectory museums will be allowed to reopen from 4th July 2020 onwards. There is no date on which museums must open, each will make the decision based on public health advice, safety, financial security and local context.

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.

How do I use the timeline?

NMDC has also published a preliminary timeline outlining some of the anticipated phases of museum reopening, however, these timings will all depend on individual contexts and will be driven by the evolving Government timeline for lifting lockdown.

The timeline will be updated as more up to date information is received. It is not prescriptive, but a general outline based on what we already know from museums that are making their reopening plans.

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.

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 can 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.

Department of Health and Social Care guidance for maintaining records of staff, customers and visitors is available here.

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.


  • 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.