Please read our updates and practical guidance on Coronavirus (COVID-19) for South West museums.

Latest information for museums during COVID-19

Last updated 15:00 27th November 2020

We have summarised and signposted the most relevant sources of information for museums in the South West below.

November 2020 – We feel the top priority in the coming weeks will be the wellbeing of each of us individually and of those we work and volunteer with.

It is more important than ever that we mobilise the communities that have been formed within museums across the South West to support each other in the coming months. Reach out to those you work with, talk about how you are feeling and in turn listen and be open in your dialogue, join people together as we know you have been doing in such uplifting ways since March.

The South West Museum Development team is here to support you. 

Index for this page:

  1. National Guidance
  2. Recovery Funding
  3. Government Furlough Scheme
  4. Training
  5. Accreditation
  6. Collections security and cleaning
  7. Support and training for museums – helpful links
  8. COVID-19 resources for museums

1. National Guidance

As the response to the pandemic continues, guidance is being developed to help organisations plan for the coming months.  

Latest Announcements – 26th November 2020

On 26th November the Government announced the revised tier system in which all regions of England will adhere to from 2nd December 2020.

There are 3 tiers. There are different rules depending on what tier an area is in. Tiering allocations will be reviewed every 14 days, and tiering regulations will expire in law
at the end of March.

Read full details of the rules and restrictions in each tier on the Government website.

Museum reopening 

– Museums and attractions in Tiers 1 & 2 are permitted to open in a COVID safe manner.

– Museums and attractions in Tier 3 are not currently permitted to open.

Tiers in the south west

We have listed how the tier restrictions affect the south west below:

Tier 1
Cornwall & Isles of Scilly

Tier 2
Bath and North East Somerset, Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole, Devon (including Plymouth and Torbay), Dorset, Gloucestershire (Cheltenham, Cotswold, Forest of Dean, Gloucester, Stroud and Tewkesbury), Somerset (South Somerset, Somerset West and Taunton, Mendip and Sedgemoor),
Wiltshire and Swindon

Tier 3
Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire

Winter Plan Announcement – 23rd November 2020

On Monday 23rd November, The Prime Minister announced the ‘Winter Plan’, detailing the new restrictions coming into force on Wednesday 2nd December. England will return to the tiering system, in which each local area will be allocated a set of restrictions based on the latest Coronavirus infection data (see further details above).

Read the Prime Minister’s statement on the COVID-19 Winter Plan here (23rd November)
Read the full Covid-19 Winter Plan here (23rd November)

The tiers will come into force on Wednesday 2nd December. So where reopening is allowed, you can reopen from this date. Find out more about Local Restriction tiers here.

  • Tier 1 – people should work from home wherever possible. In Tier 1 the ‘rule of six’ applies indoors and outdoors.
  • Tier 2 – there should be no mixing of households indoors (apart from support bubbles) and a maximum of six people can meet outdoors.
  • Tier 3 – indoor entertainment venues will have to close; this includes museums and galleries, although grounds and gardens can remain open. All hospitality will close except for delivery, takeaway and drive-through. There must be no mixing of households indoors, or in most outdoor places (a maximum of six will be able to meet in some outdoor public spaces, such as parks and public gardens), apart from support bubbles.

Current Government Guidance (as of 5th November 2020)

Until 2nd December we continue under the national restrictions that came into force Thursday 5th November 2020. After this point we will return to a tiered system or restrictions according to local area. 

Read his full statement from 31st October 2020 here. Read the New National Restrictions from 5 November for full Government guidance and further information.


We have detailed below the main aspects of the restrictions that may be relevant for you and your museum (excluding stay at home and social distancing details as we are sure you’re up to speed with this). The below is the current information from the government as 3rd November 2020.

  • Businesses and venues – To reduce social contact, the certain businesses and venues to close, including entertainment venues such as museums and galleries and theatres. Museum restaurants and cafes can continue to open for takeaway only, as long as they are in a self-contained unit, and it is possible for a member of the public to enter from a place outside the premises. Non-essential retail can remain open for delivery to customers and click-and-collect. 
  •  Going to work – Everyone who can work effectively from home must do so. Where people cannot do so they should continue to travel to work/attend their workplace and follow COVID safety guidelines. 
  •  Protecting people more at risk from coronavirus – The Government will write to everybody who is clinically extremely vulnerable to set out detailed advice while the new restrictions are in place
  • Travel – Avoid travelling in or out of your local area, and you should look to reduce the number of journeys you make. However you can travel to work where this cannot be done from home.
  •  Financial support –  Job Retention Scheme (furlough) – Workers in any part of the UK can retain their job, even if their employer cannot afford to pay them, and be paid at least 80% of their salary up to £2500 a month. See Job Support Scheme section below for further details.

Universal Government Guidance is available, Government guidance is available via Arts Council, in consultation with the Department of Culture, Media and Sport.

Current Guidelines and Checklist

The Coronavirus Covid-19 NMDC Good Practice Guidelines on Re-opening Museums have been updated in line with the new restrictions, as of November 2020. This document still includes information and guidance to consider for potential reopening in the coming months.

In June this year, as part of the Museum Development Network, we worked with the Association of Independent Museums to produce A Checklist for Re-opening Your Museum. Designed to accompany The

Checklist covers nine Principles to inform decision making within your museum. See our news post for further information on the Checklist. 

Test and Trace

Government are encouraging the use of the NHS Test and Trace app, offering QR code check-in capability. Read more about the NHS COVID-19 Test and Trace app.

There is now a requirement for museum cafes and restaurants within museums to refuse entry to customers and visitors who do not provide the relevant contact details, or have not checked in with the QR code.        

All the visitors can be admitted, provided that at least one of the group provides their name and contact details and agrees to be the ‘lead member’, or all of the group have checked in using the QR code. If no member of a group provides their name and contact details, all the group must be refused entry, with the exception of individuals who check-in using the QR code.

There is not a requirement to refuse entry to museums if visitors do not provide their contact details. However, details are collected as most museums are encouraging advance booking. If collecting when people arrive, visitors now have the option of scanning the QR code.

For full information, Test and Trace – Mandatory logs Q&A from the Department of Health and Social Care.

Face coverings

The guidance and regulations of the wearing of face coverings was updated on 24th September 2020. There is updated guidance on face coverings on the Department of Health and Social Care website and the legislation on the Government website .

It is now compulsory for retail, leisure and hospitality staff to wear a face covering in areas that are open to the public and where they come or are likely to come within close contact of a member of the public.

Visit Britain Kite Mark

Visit Britain created a ‘We’re Good to Go’ Industry Standard Kite Mark. This Kite Mark aims to reassure visitors and customers that Government and public health guidance is being followed.

Government Guidance for Heritage Locations

The Government recently released Guidance for Heritage Locations – this is for those operating, working and volunteering in heritage attractions (including open air site/museums and historic houses). This guidance was developed with input from Historic England, National Trust and other organisations.

Other reopening resources and guides

The Museum Association has published Organisational and Employment FAQs in relation to COVID-19 and reopening in museums.

Business Grants 

Businesses required to close in due to the Coronavirus restrictions will be eligible for the following:

  • For properties with a rateable value of £15k or under, grants to be £1,334 per month, or £667 per two weeks;
  • For properties with a rateable value of between £15k-£51k grants to be £2,000 per month, or £1,000 per two weeks;
  • For properties with a rateable value of £51k or over grants to be £3,000 per month, or £1,500 per two weeks.

Read the new guidance documents (downloadable PDFs) for local authorities on Local Restrictions Support Grants (LRSG) and Additional Restrictions Grant (ARG) here.

 Find out more about how the Government can support your organisation here

Remember it is up to your organisation to decide when it is safe and necessary for your site to re-open, in line with current Government guidance. If you require support or advice, please contact your local Museum Development Officer, or get in touch.

 2. Recovery Funding

We are here to support you if you are thinking of applying for any Recovery or Support Funds. Contact us using our Get In Touch form so that we ensure we can connect you to the right person.

Arts Council National Lottery Project Grants

Applications are open for Project Grants until April 2021 – now with an increased budget of £77.9 million. The fund is currently prioritising the needs of smaller independent organisations and individual practitioners. 

If you are thinking about applying read the Museums and Collections Projects Factsheet first. They also have a page of FAQs which may be helpful in your application.

Find out more about Project Grants here.

Developing Your Creative Practice (DYCP) fund

This fund is available for individual cultural and creative practitioners, for the next twelve months over several rounds. Arts Council England’s Developing Your Creative Practice supports practitioners to take time to focus on their creative development, and sits alongside the Arts Council’s Culture Recovery Fund. 

Round 9 will open for applications week commencing 21 December 2020.

Find out more and read the full guidance on the DYCP website pages. 

John Ellerman Foundation Regional Museums and Galleries Fund

Total fund of £500,000 available for galleries and museums to enhance and sustain their curatorial development and attract a broader audience.

Deadline: Friday 8 January 2021

Find out more about the John Ellerman fund.

Association of Independent Museums (AIM) Hallmarks Grants 

Grants for Accredited AIM members up to £10,000 available to support projects addressing AIM’s new Tackling Inequality Hallmark. 

Deadline: Friday 31 January 2021

Find out more about the Hallmarks Grants

We also share details of smaller funds in our monthly newsletter – sign up here

3. Job Support 

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (Government Furlough Scheme)

Due to the restrictions that came into force on 5th November 2020, the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme was extended, and the Job Support Scheme postponed.

  • Workers in any part of the UK can retain their job, even if their employer cannot afford to pay them, and be paid at least 80% of their salary up to £2500 a month.
  • Flexible furloughing will be allowed in addition to full-time furloughing.
  • Neither the employer nor the employee needs to have previously used the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.
  • Employers small or large, charitable or non-profit are eligible and because more businesses will need to close, they will now be asked to pay just National Insurance and pensions contributions for their staff during the month of November.
  • 30 November 2020 is the last day employers can submit or change claims for periods ending on or before 31 October 2020.
  • The Jobs Retention Bonus will not be paid in February. The government will redeploy a retention incentive at the appropriate time.
  • Workers who were made redundant in advance of the planned end of the furlough scheme on 31 October can be rehired under the furlough extension.
  • Due to the second lockdown, the Job Support Scheme will not be introduced until after the Job Retention Scheme ends.

Check if you can claim for your employees’ wages through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme by reading the full guidance here

The eligibility criteria has now been made clearer for employees made redundant on or after 23 Sept 2020 and
re-employed, and employees with a fixed term contract that expired after 23 September. You can now check which employees you can put on furlough. 

Claiming for wages through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

To make a claim, you will need:

  • to be registered for PAYE online
  • your UK bank account number and sort code
  • your employer PAYE scheme reference number
  • the number of employees being furloughed
  • each employee’s National Insurance number
  • each employee’s payroll or employee number (optional)
  • the start date and end date of the claim
  • the full amount you’re claiming for including employer National Insurance contributions and employer minimum pension contributions
  • your phone number
  • contact name

You also need to provide either:

  • your name (or the employer’s name if you’re an agent)
  • your Corporation Tax unique taxpayer reference
  • your Self Assessment unique taxpayer reference
  • your company registration number

Full information available on the Coronavirus Job Retention scheme website pages and read the guidance to check if you can claim for your employee’s wages through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

Self-Employment Income Support Scheme

  • Scheme extended from 1 November to April 2021. Provides 2 grants.
  • Self-employed individuals will receive 80% of their average trading profits for November, to make a total of 55% for the three months covered, up to £7,500.

Full information on the Self-Employment Scheme can be found here. You can also check if you are eligible for the scheme here.

You also may find the resource page from the Museum Freelance Network useful if you are working as a freelancer in the sector.

Government Kickstart Jobs Scheme

This is a new 6-month job placements scheme for 16-24 year olds, running until June 2021, with £2 billion of government funding pledged towards it. Employers that will host fewer than 30 placements, need to find a ‘Gateway’, or representative body, to apply for this funding on their behalf.

We have put together a news post, including a set of FAQs about the Kickstart jobs scheme to help museums consider this opportunity.

If you decide to put your organisation forward to a Gateway, or if you are a volunteer led organisation and new to employing young people, get in touch with us through our email [email protected], using the subject line Kickstart and your Museum’s name.

For full information, visit the Kickstart Scheme website.

4. Training

South West Museum Skills 2020/21

Our popular training programme is underway, please subscribe to our newsletter to be the first to hear about our latest sessions. The Winter sessions will be running from January to March 2021. 

Please see our training pages for the latest training sessions open for booking.

Our training is now online, aiming to be responsive and supportive during these challenging times. Our sessions are designed to help your museum and its workforce respond to the current situation and plan for the future. We may repeat some sessions, recognising a phased approach across the sector to returning to work/volunteer roles and re-opening.

Addressing your training priorities 

This time last year we asked you about your, and your museum’s training needs’, for you and your museum were. A lot has happened recently and we recognise that your development priorities may have now changed, so we are asking for your feedback to inform our SW Museum Skills Programme later this year. Let us know what your immediate and forthcoming training priorities by sharing your feedback here.

I am furloughed – can I access training?

Government rules state that you can complete training stipulated by your employer as long as it is not providing services or generating income for your museum.

  • Check with your employer first before starting training if you are furloughed.
  • You must be paid at least the National Minimum Wage if you undertake training (this differs for apprentices).
  • The Furlough Scheme has just been extended until October, so be mindful of this when it comes to training over this period.

See more helpful guidance from CIPD

5. Accreditation Updates

Arts Council England paused the receipt and assessment of new applications and returns to the Museum Accreditation scheme.  It did this to devote its energies to supporting museums deal with the exceptional circumstances posed by lockdown. 

Our Technical Accreditation Adviser, Vicky Dawson, has written a news post with a six month update on key questions facing museums during this pause. Read the Accreditation news post update here.

  • All Accredited Museums will have their current award status extended for an additional 12 months from April 2020.
  • All Accreditation Panel meetings, including the meeting that was scheduled for 28 April 2020, have been postponed. For those who have submitted Returns that have not yet gone to panel you will be contacted shortly.
  • An FAQs document regarding Accreditation during COVID-19 has been published by Arts Council

Contact us on [email protected] if you have any questions.

6. Collections security and cleaning

Government Indemnity Scheme (GIS)

Arts Council have released updated GIS guidance on ‘Closed Venues and Sites: advice on meeting security and environmental conditions’. Working in collaboration with the National Security Advisor. This updated guidance as of September 2020 is applicable to all museums. 

Collections Trust

We are working closely with Collections Trust and our Collections Development Officer, Helena Jaeschke, joined them for their second panel discussion and Q&A on 12th May with the theme ‘Collections Care in Lockdown – 5 weeks on’. Watch the video here.

Previously, she was in the Collections Trust broadcasted panel conversation around collection security on 7th April. Watch the video here.

You can find ‘Collections in Lockdown’ resources on Collections Trust’s website.

Helena has also produced a helpful resource which is a guide to the Main Collections Risks during closure as well as a new guide to cleaning in your museum which is worth reviewing when your museum is planning to reopen.

7. Support and training for museums – helpful links

Our e-learning modules

As part of last year’s Rural Proofing Resilience Programme, in partnership with Cornwall Museums Partnership, we have developed e-Learning modules.

Our introductory online courses cover a range of topics: Fundraising, Governance, Finance, Business Planning & Marketing.

Volunteer Support

Online Learning and Webinars

Digital Culture Network – Join webinars, videos and resources to help support your digital skills including website optimisation and income generation.

The Arts Council England Tech Champions can help with one-to-one support and answer your key digital questions. Get in touch with the Tech Champions at [email protected]

Future Learn – Sign up for a variety of courses from core business skills to museum courses designed by universities

Arts Marketing Association – Offering free arts marketing webinars and regular Q&A sessions

One to one support opportunities

Arts Fundraising & Philanthropy – Offering a Power Hour of consultancy support on income generation, fundraising and donor cultivation – scheme now extended to February 2021. 

Real Ideas Organisation – Speak to the RIO team (our bridge organisation for the south west) or join a webinar. 

Online Resources

Arts Council England – A central resource listing Government and wider support for organisations and individuals relevant to the cultural sector in consultation with DCMS.

Charity Commission – Read the published guidance from the most commonly asked questions from charities during COVID-19

Collections Trust – A section on resources for ‘Collections in Lockdown’

Culture24 – Digital Pathways resources to help you with digital tools and channels

Audience Agency – A variety of resources and webinars to support cultural organisations

Kids in Museums – Resources to support working with children and young people and activities for families

The Cultural Health & Wellbeing Alliance – A list of links to useful resources and advice on health and wellbeing

Bates Wells Solicitors – Free resources and features on legal support for your museum, including employment and solvency advice

Museum Association – Offering a suite of Museum Essentials online learning courses – currently on Collections and Ethics (for MA members only)

Museum Freelance Network – Offering a list of useful resources and links relating to museum freelancers.

Temporary pay walls removed

Crowdfunder – Waiving platform and other fees for freelancers/creative businesses if your orgnanisation is raising money in response to the effects of COVID-19 (e.g. Holburne Museum’s campaign)

Arts Professional – Free access to the Arts Professional CovidCulture articles, resources and online events

National Council for Voluntary Organisations – NCVO have an archive of Knowhow Coronavirus guidance and links supporting charities, voluntary organisations and volunteers. The majority of these are free to all. We thought this Virtual Teams resource was particularly helpful. 

Paid Training

Arts Fundraising & PhilanthropyOffering a virtual training for trustees and fundraisers to support your museum and develop leadership skills

Association of Cultural Enterprises – Online training modules including Retail Essentials and Licensing

8. COVID-19 resources for museums

COVID-19 Support: Workforce wellbeing

Read our guide to workforce wellbeing, looking at simple ways to support your own and your teams’ mental health.

COVID-19 Support: Governance for Charities in Times of Crisis – A Guide for Trustees

Read the key considerations, for governing bodies of museum and heritage organisations, in response to COVID-19

COVID-19 Support: Guidelines for Safe Volunteering during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Read our key considerations for volunteer management and operations including: safeguarding, DBS processing and volunteering to support the emergency response.

COVID-19 Support: Keeping Your Museum and Collections Safe

Download our practical resource containing advice and checklists on how to keep your museum and collections safe during closure

COVID-19 Support: Main collections risks during closure

Download our practical resource containing practical information, advice and further reading regarding the seven main risks for your collection during closure.

COVID-19 Support: Funding Factsheet – our breakdown of HM Government’s support

Read our guide to help you interpret what financial support is currently available to you and how to prioritise what action you might need to take.

COVID-19 Support: Audience Insights – Things to do now to help you get ready for the future

Read our top tips on how to use audience data now to help you plan for the future.

COVID-19 Support: Audience Insights – Baseline Summary of Audience Data Template

Use our template to help you create a baseline summary of your audience data.

COVID-19 Support: Contemporary collecting during closure

Read our guidance before starting any contemporary collecting during COVID-19 closure