What happens to museum collections when the country goes into lockdown?

By Zoe Brady, NMB Conservator

Conservation | May 11, 2020

Reading time: 2 minutes

WALL-E is a wonderful 2008 Disney film that begins with a solitary robot diligently doing his job, even though the world around him has become considerably different and lonely. He cleans up and looks out for any sign of persistent life. Sometimes I catch myself feeling a bit like that poor fellow, helping to maintain stewardship over a place in preparation for the time when people return.

The leadership of The National Museum of Bermuda made the difficult decision to suspend front-facing operations until further notice on 16 March 2020 in response to the escalation of the COVID-19 pandemic. As a communal family space that encourages discourse, communion, and interaction for everybody, there was no other choice. Sadly, the decision would subsequently prove to be justified with escalation of safety measures island- and worldwide.

Prolonged inactivity has an impact. With temporary closure, exhibit spaces sit in darkness, air circulation is limited and the area cools. No one is breathing, perspiring, and bringing in wet raincoats or umbrellas, stabilising the humidity. Conversation and footsteps cease. A place that used to be busy with locals, visitors, and cruise ship arrivals, is now still.

WALL-E had one friend and pet who ironically embodies one of my enemies: he is known solely in the Disney wiki as ‘WALL-E cockroach’.

Insects love quiet and dark spaces, and consequentially there is now a risk of increased activity. One of the initiatives has been to ramp up the use and monitoring of insect (blunder) traps, with preparations to mitigate impacts as needed. Darkness and decreased air circulation also encourages mould and allows dust to settle, and while many cases are sealed and designed to maintain a low humidity other areas must be monitored carefully and cleaned. This includes sustaining a systematic approach to storage areas.

Museums exhibit so that people can enjoy and learn in a tangible way. Though we are taking steps to engage audiences digitally with our At Home with History programme, the Museum and its artefacts are still being cared for and will be ready for you to enjoy when the Museum is able to open its doors once again. We look forward to welcoming you back to your National Museum of Bermuda.

Though NMB is temporarily closed you can pre-purchase your tickets for when we do re-open. By purchasing your ticket today, you support online resources and our ability to re-open at full speed. We look forward to welcoming all ticket holders back to the Museum once we re-open. 


Become a Member

Membership supports NMB education programmes and offers year-round benefits

Support NMB

Donations help us tell Bermuda’s story, preserve our past, and connect people with history


Join our team of volunteers. Digital and in-person volunteer opportunities are available