NJ museums itching to reopen and continue educating the public
On a typical weekday in May, Liberty Science Center in Jersey City would have up to 3,000 New Jersey students enter the museum's doors for a field trip.
Hundreds of thousands of individuals pay admission each year to enjoy the site's interactive science exhibits.
But for now, the learning center, along with other nonprofit museums throughout the Garden State, can only sit back and wait for New Jersey's recovery from the pandemic to reach stage 2 of Gov. Phil Murphy's reopening plan, which would include museums and libraries.
"To not have that attendance revenue is stressful," Paul Hoffman, president/CEO of Liberty Science Center, told New Jersey 101.5.
The operation continues to run programming online, free of charge for the public and classrooms. And while no paid admission is possible, Hoffman said, donors are "stepping up" during this time of need.
"They believe in our mission, which is really simple — it's to inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers," Hoffman said. "And if the COVID crisis has taught us anything, it's that we need more kids going into those fields."
New Jersey's "road back" from the health crisis, according to Murphy, is currently in stage 1 of a multi-stage process approaching a "new normal." Beaches, drive-in activities, curbside retail and elective surgeries are among the operations that have been given the go-ahead to resume in New Jersey.
Museums and libraries, along with other limited activities, are included in stage 2 of Murphy's plan. These are places and operations that can be "easily safeguarded," according to the plan.
"We're hoping that at least we could open up the ship for self-guided tours as part of a first wave, once New Jersey allows museums and attractions to open," said Jack Willard, vice president of marketing for Battleship New Jersey Museum & Memorial.
In the meantime, the site on the Camden waterfront continues to ask for donations, and for people to either renew or sign up for yearly memberships. Its online store continues to sell museum merchandise.
The largest fundraiser of the year for the Aviation Hall of Fame & Museum of New Jersey has already been cancelled. And it's uncertain when the Teterboro property will be able to hold its next open-cockpit event — six of these events throughout the year provide a significant amount of revenue for the museum.
Executive Director Ralph Villecca said expenses have been "cut to the bone" to help make up for lost revenue — the museum welcomes thousands of visitors per year. Utility costs are at a minimum, and two employees have been laid off, Villecca said. Those moves, along with others, should allow the site to be "okay for a while," he said.
"If this goes on another six months, we're in trouble," Villecca said. "We are hoping that after June 6 we can begin the process of re-opening both for our volunteers, but more importantly for our loyal patrons."
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