Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, one in every three museums in the United States had to close their doors to the public, according to a survey done by the American Alliance of Museums in 2021.

For the Heard Museum in Phoenix, it was no different. The museum had decided it would be best to close its doors in 2020 from March 17 to June 9.

The museum encouraged people to consider buying pieces of artwork from Indigenous artists, “who help to make the Heard Museum such a special place,” David Roche, the museum’s director, said in a press release in 2020. 

John Bulla, the deputy director, said that closing the museum was the most difficult part.

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The museum came up with alternative online-friendly solutions for people who stayed inside but still wanted to find a way to enjoy pieces of art from the museum.

“Everything seemed to come to a stop, so we needed to create alternative solutions,” Bulla said.

Due to the social distancing during the pandemic, the Heard Museum made it accessible for the patrons who still wanted to enjoy the various artwork within the museum within the comfort of their own homes.

“During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the museum realized that we must still do our mission-based work,” Erin Joyce, creative and marketing director, said.

Heard Museum

Heard@Home was an installation on the museum’s website to allow viewers to enjoy a virtual program of short films created by indigenous filmmakers, their Youtube channel gives an inside look at native artists or reading content for both adults and children, as well as children’s activities such as downloadable and printable pages that feature coloring pages or postcards.

“All of these were efforts to continue to engage with our audience, and offer moments of brightness during a very dark time,” Joyce said.

In preparing to reopen, the Heard Museum added the requirement of having face masks and enforced social distancing. The museum also reduced its hours during the week, which is still in effect today.

“We reduced the numbers of visitors that could be in the museum at one time by 75%,” Bulla said.

Almost two years later since the pandemic, the museum is still recovering from an earned income standpoint despite having to close during the pandemic, Bulla said.

It was reported by the American Alliance of Museums that three-quarters of museums reported that their income fell an average of 40% in 2020 when their doors closed to the public.

“However, since last summer and again this spring, we are now seeing positive trends in increased attendance and earned income sales that are close to achieving our normal annual operating revenue,” Bulla said. 

Since October, the museum has been reintroducing its live events and has been generating near-normal attendance levels compared to past years said Bulla.

With the recent success of the recent Indian Fair & Market and the International World Championship Hoop Dance Competition, the Heard Museum has already started to work on programming and exhibitions for the next three years.