What’s it really like to run a museum during a pandemic?

By Brianna Kosowitz, Executive Director | June 11, 2020

Every day it seems, I wake up and remind myself that we are in the middle of a global pandemic and life as we know it is entirely different. The Museum is closed to the public and I’m working from my at-home office—my kitchen counter. My priorities as the Executive Director of the Museum have changed as the uncertainty of the future looms large.

I now spend an inordinate amount of time keeping up with the latest news, attending webinars, and following guidelines and notices from the Governor’s Office. Everything changes on a daily basis and reopening is a moving target. Three of four major in-person fundraisers for the Museum are canceled, which means significant revenue loss and changes to our projected budget.

Our small and close-knit team can no longer touch base in passing, pop into each other’s work spaces, or catch up with our volunteers at the front desk. Zoom is now the main way we “see” each other on a regular basis. Our new reality is equal parts challenging and motivating.

Recent Zoom Board Meeting

We are now laser focused on our mission statement—to, “preserve and share the stories of Bainbridge Island to promote a greater understanding of our community and the world in which we live.” Why do we matter? Why does our nonprofit exist? How can we help make a difference right now?

We are thinking deeply about our current reality as we know it will eventually be our collective past. At BIHM, we are embracing our responsibility, as historians of this moment in time, to actively document, preserve, and share personal stories and cultural materials that result from COVID-19. We are adjusting grant applications and appealing to local groups like Bainbridge Community Foundation and the Rotary Club to support our collecting initiative with equipment and funding. Read more about our COVID-19 collecting project here.

Social Distancing. Photo by BIHM Staff.

The steady encouragement and reassurance of our fantastic Board of Directors has allowed us to work through the stress and insecurity of the future to embrace a positive mindset for the organization. We try to see every challenge as an opportunity to innovate and test out new ideas. This blog for instance, is an experiment as we try to stay connected and give readers a more intimate understanding of our work and why we’re doing what we do. Staff members are stepping outside their comfort zones doing Facebook live events, video tours, and virtual panel programs. We know the quality isn’t perfect and we’re experiencing a few hiccups, but we’re energized by the opportunity to create new content.

An amazing network of local and state nonprofits and museums have come together to provide incredible support for one another. Some groups meet as often as every week to share resources, brainstorm solutions, and collaborate on programs. We are moving forward together, in-step, so that our efforts lift up the arts and culture sector on Bainbridge Island as a whole.

As a Museum, we fall into Phase 3 of Governor Inslee’s plan for Washington State. We are excited to partially reopen to the general public as soon as it is safe to do so and we look forward to welcoming you back to the Museum.

If you want to help make a difference, consider donating here. We are also looking for energetic individuals, 64 or younger, to volunteer with the Museum during Phase 3. No knowledge of Bainbridge Island history is necessary. Government and safety guidelines will be followed. If you’re interested and would like more information, please contact our Volunteer & Tour Coordinator, Jordan LaMont, at [email protected].