Before stepping into the Duke’s beloved Nasher Museum of Art, the top of the door displays an array of graphics and words welcoming visitors back along with new COVID-19 protocols. To the side of these directions, the graphic reads, “Art is waiting for you! We’re so glad you’re here.”
After almost a year and a half of being closed to the public and primarily appointment-only for the Duke community, the Nasher has officially reopened. The museum currently offers free admission for all visitors, and is open Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., excluding Thursday nights. While in-person tours for the Duke and Durham community have resumed, the museum team has also developed ways to engage the community from home.
Wendy Hower, director of engagement and marketing at the Nasher discussed how “the pandemic pushed [the museum] to create new virtual content,” such as virtual tours of the exhibitions, which can be viewed on their website. While visitors can now experience exhibitions in person, Nasher curator Adria Gunter is excited to continue producing new virtual tours so the collections can be “accessible to a larger audience.”
In preparing to reopen to the public, the Nasher’s staff had to consider the safety of museum staff and visitors. After discussions with Duke’s administration, the team implemented protocols to ensure a healthy and safe environment. Signs placed around the atrium and galleries list COVID-19 policies including staying home if feeling sick, wearing masks, washing hands, and social distancing — all in accordance with campus-wide public health directives.
Nasher staff are eager for an eventual return to pre-COVID hours of operation, which used to include the weekends. A shortage of staff in the Nasher, as seen in other establishments on campus, has caused them to cut back on the number of days open. Hower said Nasher staff are “impatient” to open the museum up full-time and have made opening on Thursday nights and weekends their “number-one goal.”
On the day of Nasher’s reopening, a new collection show began titled, “In Relation to Power: Politically Engaged Works from the Collection,” which highlights the reaction of artists to political events. The show was organized entirely remotely by Adria Gunter and Marshall Price, chief curator of the Nasher. The collection consists of various mediums, such as video, sculptures, paintings, and a piece entitled “Push Pull” by artist Hugo McCloud made exclusively from plastic bags.
Another popular component of the museum, The Nasher Café is a favorite of students on campus. After 18 months of being closed, Aidan Peters, the café manager, is thrilled that the café is finally opened. Peters is eager to reopen the café on weekends to to appease students’ love for brunch at the Nasher.
Senior Joyce Huang, an intern for the marketing team at the Nasher, enjoyed “working on the behind-the scenes” directives for the transition to re-opening and is excited to see students back in the space.
While the pandemic has been difficult for the Nasher, staff are hopeful to slowly return to providing pre-pandemic experiences such as in-person events, increased student and community engagement, and, of course, weekend brunch.
“The Nasher is your art museum, Duke students. We exist because of Duke students,” Hower said. “We have really missed the Duke students and can’t wait for them to be back.”
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