Coronavirus COVID-19 information for MA members

[last updated Thursday 9 April, 5.30pm]  

Museums Aotearoa supports all our members and their whanau as we all work through the challenges of this evolving global pandemic. Our first priority is our people - staff, volunteers, visitors and the wider community.

Now that we are in Pandemic Alert Level 4, all museums and galleries are closed. Remember that if you have to go out for essential supplies or services, physical distancing is vital - ie keeping a 2 metre distance for any human interaction.

If you have symptoms of the coronavirus, call the NZ Covid-19 Healthline on 0800 358 5453 (+64 9 358 5453 for international SIMs)

This page includes:


MBIE have advised Museums Aotearoa that: 

"Businesses carrying out functions that are immediately essential to maintain the necessities of life or critical to safety can remain open under Alert level 4, including any critical suppliers in their supply chains. Specialist expertise that you refer to is allowed provided it is emergency work where the need is immediate and required to maintain human, taonga/exhibits health and safety.

Businesses who provide you with specialist expertise can carry out emergency work as long as it is done in a way that limits the transmission of COVID-19 by taking the following measures:

  • minimise, or eliminate if possible, physical interactions amongst staff and with and between customers,
  • ensure appropriate health, hygiene and safety measures are in place,
  • restrict activity to only what is essential during the Alert 4 period."

In addition, MCH have relayed (with MBIE's approval) the following from MBIE:

"Security and maintenance/cleaning may continue on museums/galleries/libraries/archives. These facilities/buildings must NOT be open to the public however and the services must be at a minimum and following the health and safety guidelines:

Services must continue in a way that minimises the risk of COVID-19 transmission. Including:

  • minimise, or eliminate if possible, physical interactions among staff and with and between customers
  • ensure appropriate health, hygiene and safety measures are in place
  • restrict activity to only what is essential during the Alert Level 4 period.

These practices may include:

  • limiting, or eliminating if possible, physical interaction between staff, e.g. through physical distancing, split shifts, staggered meal breaks and flexible working arrangements
  • limiting, or eliminating if possible, physical interaction with and between customers, eg through online or phone orders, contactless delivery or managed entry (while also avoiding crowding outside), and physical distancing both inside and outside the premises
  • hygiene basics of hand washing and sanitisers
  • frequent cleaning of premises, especially counters and eftpos terminals, and other high-touch surfaces (cleaning advice is available on the Ministry of Health website)
  • protective equipment for staff as appropriate."

Download this information and MA guidance

The following is a public statement from Museums Aotearoa on 25 March 2020 - an expanded version can be downloaded here

Museums still operating in Aotearoa's COVID-19 shutdown

He waka eke noa – We are all in this together
Arts, culture and heritage are essential expressions of who we are as the people of Aotearoa and of our place in the wider world. Public museums and art galleries are kaitiaki of objects and knowledge that inform and reflect our understanding of who we are. 
The COVID-19 pandemic is causing social disruption on a global scale. Public museums and galleries are a key part of our society, contribute positively to our economy and will be a vital part of our recovery. Our people and organisations need a commitment of the ongoing support of local and central government to ensure we can continue to strengthen our communities during the current crisis and in a post-COVID-19 world.
The commissioned report on The value museums, art galleries and heritage properties contribute in Aotearoa New Zealand illustrates the benefits that our institutions provide to communities and to the economy. The cultural value of ngā taonga tuku iho that rest within our institutions and are kept connected to their whānau hapū iwi by support people and systems to ensure their mauri is safe cannot be overstated. 
The importance of arts, culture and heritage venues in maintaining community cohesiveness and wellbeing has already been demonstrated during and after the Canterbury earthquakes and the 2019 Christchurch terror attacks. These institutions will have a key role in collecting and recording the memory of this time for future generations, as they have done through time.
Immediate effects on the museum sector
Museums Aotearoa has been in contact with galleries and museums around Aotearoa over the past weeks as the COVID-19 situation developed. As well as the immediate responses of closing institutions of all sizes and preparing staff for alert level 4, museums and galleries are already developing plans to continue to provide access to cultural experiences and inter-generational learning opportunities during the time of shutdown and beyond.
We applaud the government's recent initiatives to protect and support our people and our visitors. The Wage Subsidy and Leave Support Scheme will assist some public museums and galleries, and a very small number will be able to access Creative New Zealand's Emergency Response Package. It is hoped that the mortgage payment holiday just announced will also help museums to retain staff if they have to take unpaid leave or a pay cut, although the impact of this on those who rent is not yet known.
Some public galleries and museums are currently well supported by local councils. Even with their doors closed and no entry fees, donations or events income, many will be able to retain permanent staff, although at what level over a longer term is unknown. In many cases staff are able to continue to do useful and proactive work from home to ensure the collections are safe, they are researched are shared with our public in new ways, and that their institution is in a good position to reopen when that time comes.
However, there are already some redundancies announced and there will be more, beginning with front of house and part time staff. For organisations without the active support of local government, or where there is not the capacity for additional external support to weather this crisis, there is serious potential for closures.
As well as staffing and loss of income, Museums Aotearoa members report a range of specific areas of concern, depending on the particular type and scale of museum or gallery:
  • Loss of income
  • Staff retention and wellbeing
  • Static outgoings
  • Volunteer issues
  • Security and monitoring of collections during closure
Future opportunities
On a more positive note, some museums are already finding new opportunities. Online and social media presence has been growing in recent years and we expect it to expand rapidly, for example Christchurch Art Gallery has been live streaming talks via Facebook, and many museums regularly post and blog about topical collection items. 
The extent of online collection access has also been growing, and those in a position to do so have said they will step this up during the work from home period. However, this work is now constrained for those with no access to collections not already digitised and accessible online – at least by staff if not the public – and by available technology and expertise. We hope that at some point after the immediate alert level 4 period there will be limited staff/volunteer access to workplaces which will enable more of this kind of activity to be supported.
Looking to a time post-COVID-19, the museum sector will be working alongside others across the arts, culture and heritage sectors to support our recovery. There is some initial thinking and sharing of ideas around collecting relating to the pandemic, informed by events such as Christchurch earthquakes and mosque attacks, as well as international experience. We also expect a strong emphasis on community engagement, especially locally.
Our museum and gallery professionals are well-connected nationally and internationally, leading the way in many areas of museum practice; we do, and will continue to, support each other. As well as working with our members and the international museum community, Museums Aotearoa will be reviewing with the Ministry for Culture and Heritage what leadership, guidance and support they can provide to the sector so that Aotearoa has a coordinated approach as we work our way through the impact of COVID-19.
Museum sector needs
Museums Aotearoa strongly advocates that our people and our organisations need the ongoing commitment and extended support of both local and central government to ensure we can come through the COVID-19 crisis and continue to strengthen our communities. 
Nā tō rourou, nā taku rourou ka ora ai te iwi 
With your food basket and my food basket the people will thrive
Phillipa Tocker
Executive Director, Museums Aotearoa 
25 March 2020


MA activities

Museums still operating in Aotearoa's COVID-19 shutdown - public statement from Museums Aotearoa (25 March 2020) 

MA20 Waitangi conference - postponed until 5-7 May 2021. We will be communicating directly with delegates and presenters.
2020 ServiceIQ NZ Museum Awards - deferred to 2021.
EMP meet-ups - cancelled
Kahui Kaitiaki - May hui cancelled, October hui on hold

Links to MA members-only resources.

We will be following all official advice and preventive measures. MA staff are currently working from home and carrying on business as usual as far as practical.

Keep in touch
Thank you to everyone who has responded to the Museums Aotearoa online survey where you can share your questions, responses and plans. This is helping us to understand the main areas of concern so we can raise these with government and other agencies to get the best advice and support possible for museums and galleries nationally.

Aotearoa NZ information

NZ Government Covid-19 website - this includes the alert levels
Ministry of Health 
Ministry of Education
NZ Wage Subsidy and Leave Support Payment Scheme
Tourism Industry Aotearoa COVID-19 info - updated regularly
Go with Tourism - support for tourism industry workers and businesses
Mental Health Foundation - new resources and ways to get help
DIA Charities - advice on holding AGMs and extensions to reporting dates
Essential Businesses - clarification on what is deemed an essential business during Level 4 Alert

The Society of Local Government Managers (SOLGM) has set up a COVID-19 LG coordination unit to guide and support councils through the pandemic. Museum and gallery managers in within councils can sign up to its discussion group.

COVID-19 NZ Report (Dynata, April 2020) 
Auckland Museum has shared some insight from Dynata on New Zealander's responses to the COVID-19 situation. This public opinion research is based on responses from a nationally representative sample of 1,000 New Zealanders. Some key takeaways from this research:

  • It is going to be some time before we return to normal – 74% think we will be in lockdown for more than a month, and 60% believe it will be more than 6 months before things are back to normal.
  • COVID-19 is having a huge social impact – 47% are most concerned about the impact on their family, and 59% are missing socialising with friends the most.
  • The pandemic will also change future behaviour - 56% think people will be focusing on saving when things are back to normal, with the researchers noting "it suggests that individuals are going to be a lot more considered in how they are spending, and planning for their future." They also think people will take fewer holidays and overseas trips.
  • Our country’s response to COVID-19 has evoked a sense of pride, with 68% saying the way NZ is dealing with COVID-19 makes them proud to be a New Zealander.

Download the COVID-a9 NZ Report infographic


Other museum/gallery-related links

Creative NZ resource page - includes latest $16m Support Package which some art museums may be able to access
American Alliance of Museums workplace information
UK Museums Association - coronavirus impact on museums 
Public Health Emergencies - COSTEP MA - US state advice for cultural institutions, included collection care

International websites
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
World Health Organisation 

Feedback, suggestions, resources to share?
Email MA or tel +64 4 499 1313