Navigating Unchartered Waters: Reimagining Exhibitions, Collections and Access during a Pandemic

*This is the latest in a series of articles featuring musical instrument collections and the procedures and programs they have instituted during the global Covid-19 pandemic. As of this posting, the National Music Centre has once again been closed due to viral spread in the province of Alberta.


By Jesse Moffatt

As a founding member of the National Music Centre (NMC) collections and exhibitions team, I am working alongside my colleagues to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, which continues to significantly alter the operations of the entire cultural sector. Having to close, reopen, then close again has had its challenges, but our goal has always been to remain adaptable to an ever-changing situation.

Our goal since the pandemic first impacted NMC nine months ago, has been to stay positive, adapt to the ever-changing environment, use this time to experiment with new things, and constantly reevaluate and re-imagine our future. In doing so, we took three critical steps to date that have assisted us in navigating these uncharted waters.

Back to basics

On March 17th, NMC was mandated to close its doors alongside all other province wide museums. In April, we reduced our team by 77%, then spent months pivoting and planning for our eventual reopening.

The health and safety of all the people entering and visiting Studio Bell have always been a top priority. During this time of COVID-19 we developed countless new precautions and measures to help visitors feel safe and to enable them to safely engage with our collections and exhibitions while visiting our facility.

In the months leading up to reopening, the team worked to develop COVID-19 wayfinding and health signage. In fact, we created ninety unique designs and over 500 pieces of physical distancing/wayfinding/positive messages that we installed to safely guide visitors through our facility and exhibitions.


Floor graphics depicting directional arrows and physical distancing and positive messaging reminders were installed on all active floors. Gentle reminders for visitors to play their part during the Pandemic were included.