NEWPORT NEWS, Va. - More than a year after shutting down its galleries, a local museum reopened to the public on Friday.
The Mariners' Museum and Park spent the better part of the pandemic focusing on online content and lessons, keeping the museum portion shuttered to visitors.
"We really wanted to be purposeful about when the museum reopened," said Jennifer Hackney, the museum's Senior Educator for Material Culture. "We wanted to make sure that all our guests are safe, that all of our staff and volunteers are all safe and we wanted to make sure the experience here was still going to be worthwhile."
The reopening comes the same day as most of Virginia's social distancing and capacity requirements are lifted, but a Memorial Day reopening at the Mariners' Museum was in the works for some time.
Although the museum will still offer online content, Hackney says she and the rest of the staff are excited to welcome the public back into the physical space, which aims to teach visitors about humanity's history on the water.
The museum houses displays and artifacts recovered locally and around the world; some dating back to ancient times.
"As much as we've had wonderful online content, it's so important to actually see objects and works on paper in-person," she said.
Enhancing that experience was a big focus while the galleries were closed, Hackney tells News 3.
Guests who visited pre-pandemic will notice new experiences including an observation room that looks directly into the museum's Clean Lab where conservators work to preserve artifacts for display.
"They do everything from cleaning objects to stabilizing them," she said. "They also use a lot of high-tech scientific equipment to determine what things are made of and the best treatment for them so that they can have a long life in our galleries."
Among the artifacts in the lab when News 3 visited were pieces of rope from the Civil War-era warship the USS Monitor.
To get visitors reacquainted with the museum, educators put together a scavenger hunt challenging families to locate certain displays, take specific photos and more.
"We are encouraging guests to come and enjoy themselves," said Hackney.
Admission to the Mariners' Museum and Park is $1. The museum recommends purchasing tickets in advance to ensure everyone gets in.
Masks will be optional, according to Virginia guidelines.