CHAMPAIGN — The week before University of Illinois students return to campus, Krannert Art Museum will begin welcoming a limited amount of visitors.
“I’m really excited,” Director Jon Seydl said. “I’m relieved that we’re finally at this point. I’m a little nervous, of course, because it’s something new, but I feel really confident that we’re ready.”
Seydl and his staff originally intended to open the museum in early July, but they wanted to make sure they were completely ready.
The safety measure that finally made him feel at ease was the museum’s new online reservation system. Up to 12 visitors will be able to sign up to visit each hour. It will be open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, with extended hours until 7 p.m. on Thursdays.
“I felt like that was the final piece for us that gave us the confidence that we were really ready,” Seydl said. “From what we see from other museums that are open, some had reservation systems that worked out really well.”
“No museums found they were for the most part exceeding their recommendations, so it wasn’t necessarily about limiting visitors, but it was more about giving staff the confidence just to understand what each day was going to look like,” he said.
On Aug. 18, the first museum members who reserved a spot will walk through the doors for a trial. They’ll be the first guests to set foot in the museum since March, when it closed its doors along with the rest of the UI campus.
Seydl said the decision to open the week before classes begin was to ensure that community members could visit without worry. And because classes are not taking place in the museum this semester, the extra foot traffic that normally comes from students heading to the museum’s auditorium will be gone.
Visitors will be directed by signs in narrow spaces, including on staircases, but otherwise, they’ll be free to roam the museum while maintaining at least 6 feet of distance from others.
“At 25 percent capacity, there’s going to be a lot of room for social distancing,” Seydl said, “so I think they’re going to do a lot of that on their own.”
The museum experience will certainly be different. For instance, the museum is spreading out the releases of its exhibits instead of releasing all of them at once at the beginning of the year. And visitors will be walking through galleries devoid of the chatter of dozens of others passing through.
To Seydl, those differences will be pronounced, but they won’t all be negative.
“We really put a lot of thought in how to do this right and safely and comfortably, but also still welcoming visitors,” he said. “It’ll be a quieter experience than we’ve had in the past, but that’s fine.”