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

Latest information for museums during COVID-19

Last updated 12.30, 1st March 2021

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

We regularly check and update the information on this page – some useful links and documents from throughout the pandemic are still available for reference.

We feel one of our top priorities is looking after 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 in the past year.

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

  • 1. National Guidance

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

    Latest Announcements –

    Easing Restrictions Roadmap (February 2021)

    The Prime Minister released the much anticipated ‘Roadmap’ for easing of restrictions on Monday 22nd February 2021, detailing the easing of restrictions in England.

    The roadmap sets out each stage of the process in four steps – examining and reassessing the data and impact before progressing to the following step.

    Key Dates and information for Museums and Galleries:

    • Step 1 – From 8th March – Schools will reopen with testing and year group bubbles.
    • Step 2 – From 12th April – Non-essential retail, and public buildings reopening including libraries and community centres. Most outdoor attractions and settings will reopen including outdoor hospitality venues, zoos, theme parks, and drive-in cinemas. Permitted businesses operating in otherwise closed attractions (such as a gift shop or a takeaway kiosk at a museum) may only open where they are a self-contained unit and can be accessed without entering the museum.
    • Step 3 – From 17th May – Museums will be allowed to reopen.
    • Step 4 – From 21st June – The government hopes to be in a position to remove all legal limits on social contact.
    • The Chancellor will set out further details on support in the following budget.

    View our summary of the guidance in our news post. 

    Read the Government Guidance in full (available in several formats).

    Read the Prime Minister’s Oral Statement to Parliament on 22nd February 2021.

    There is now guidance on Reopening businesses and venues in England published on 24th February 2021, detailing the steps to reopen certain businesses and venues in England.

    National lockdown guidance (5th January 2021)

    Boris Johnson announced a National Lockdown on 4th January 2021, detailing ‘stay at home’ measures for England, effective immediately.

    The rules are summarised as follows:

    • You must stay at home.
    • You may only leave your home for work if you cannot reasonably work from home.
    • Museums and galleries in England must stay closed.
    • The law has been updated to reflect these new rules.

    Further information is here (published 4th January 2021):

    Supporting museums – Our COVID-19 resources

    Remember we have a suite of COVID-19 Support resources created by our team, available on our website available to download at any time. These are designed to offer guidance for you and your museum as the pandemic continues and changes.

    Our resources include:

    The below information may be useful to consider in preparation for reopening later in the year.

    Reopening 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 2020, as part of the Museum Development Network, we worked with the Association of Independent Museums to produce A Checklist for Re-opening Your Museum.

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

    Test and Trace

    The 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 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 updated the  Guidance for Heritage Locations on 23rd December 2020 – 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 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.

    Virtual members’ meetings and trading when insolvent

    Some of the relaxations under the Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act 2020 have been extended until next year:

    • The “relevant period” during which museums that are charitable companies, including Charitable Incorporated Organisations (CIO), can hold virtual general meetings is extended until 30 March 2021.
    • The suspension of wrongful trading liability for company directors and CIO trustees, which applied between 1 March and 30 September 2020, is reinstated, so that it won’t be possible to bring wrongful trading claims in relation to losses caused by trading between 26 November 2020 and 30 April 2021.

    The regulations making the changes are the Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act 2020 (Coronavirus) (Suspension of Liability for Wrongful Trading and Extension of the Relevant Period) Regulations 2020.

    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.

    Culture Recovery Fund – Round 2

    Arts Council England and Heritage Lottery Fund have announced details on Round 2 of the Culture Recovery Fund for January 2021:

    • Portal opens – Midday 6th January 2021
    • Deadline This grant fund deadline has now passed. 
    • Grant range £25,000 – £3,000,000

    See the Arts Council England website for more details. 


    Take a look at this FAQ guide to help you work out how much to apply for. It is only a guide, so if you are unsure – should you have the appropriate need and eligible project proposal to meet that need – you should not be dissuaded from applying.


    Arts Council England are hosting Culture Recovery Fund webinars for any organisations who want more information before applying for Culture Recovery Fund grants.

    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 opened on 11th January 2021 and closes 12th February 2021.

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


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

    Government Lockdown Grants

    Businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors are to receive a one-off grant worth up to £9,000. The one-off top-ups will be granted to closed businesses as follows:

    • £4,000 for businesses with a rateable value of £15,000 or under
    • £6,000 for businesses with a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,000
    • £9,000 for businesses with a rateable value of over £51,000

    Find out more about the grants on the Government web pages. 

    Closed Businesses Lockdown Payment

    The Closed Businesses Lockdown Payment (CBLP) supports businesses that have been
    required to close due to the national restrictions beginning 5 January 2021.

    Check if your museum is eligible to apply

  • 3. Job Support

    Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (Government Furlough Scheme)

    The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme has now been 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.
    • 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 andre-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 are running from January to March 2021, as well as a suite of additional Plus sessions on specific themes.

    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.

    We have written a news post with an update on the Scheme, taking into account Arts Council England’s January 2021 update.

    • 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 28th 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 work 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. Rapid Lateral Flow Tests Kits for Organisations' Employees or Volunteers

    The Volunteering Team at the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, and the Department of Health and Social Care have provided the sector with clarity on advice Rapid Lateral Flow Tests Kits. These are for organisations wishing to apply to receive rapid lateral flow test kits (asymptomatic testing) to undertake testing of their staff who cannot work from home.

    Employers can register to order free coronavirus free rapid lateral flow tests for their employees and volunteers who cannot work from home if:

    • their business or organisation is registered in England
    • their business or organisation employs 50 people or more (includes volunteers)
    • their business or organisation’s employees cannot work from home

    Please note, volunteers are included in the 50 or more employees headcount for organisations to be able to receive rapid lateral flow test kits (asymptomatic testing) – this means that an organisation with 50 or more volunteers who cannot work from home can sign up to receive the rapid lateral flow test kits as described below.

    Any employer (including a charity or voluntary organisation) which has a Companies House registration number can register on GOV.UK to get the forms they need to order these tests for their employees.

    Charities and voluntary organisations which do not hold a Companies House registration number will be unable to register online via GOV.UK to receive these tests as the system will only accept 8 digit business registration numbers.

    To sign up, these organisations need to provide the information below via email to [email protected] with the email subject “National Workplace Testing – Charity”, and a team at DHSC will complete the validation process:

    • Company name
    • Charity number
    • Number of employees
    • Industry / sector
    • Email contact


  • 8. 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

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