Wings Over the Rockies Through the Pandemic

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Wings Over the Rockies Through the Pandemic

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Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum is located in a hangar of the former Lowry Air Force Base in eastern Denver, Colorado. The museum offers a host of historic aircraft, artifacts, space objects, and more. According to their website, each year the museum can expect “roughly 160,000 visitors representing all 50 U.S. states and 34 countries around the world.” This year has been much different. The pandemic of 2020 has had a major impact on people, the economy, and businesses all around the world. Certain organizations that rely on in-person attendance has been hit especially hard by the effects of COVID-19. Wings Over the Rockies closed its doors on March 13, 2020 indefinitely. Some staff members were able to continue to work from home. Others were not. When Wings reopened its doors over three months later the museum looked and operated entirely different. In an effort to follow state and CDC guidelines as well as put staff and guests at ease, the museum adopted a new system. Now, museum staff and visitors require face masks, the hangar is sectioned off to keep track of the amount of people in one area, signs and markers are placed throughout the museum to enforce social distancing, and visitors are required to pre-purchase timed tickets. Even with this entirely new system throughout the museum, the biggest effect of COVID-19 on the museum is the silence that plagues its building. As people are reflecting on the pandemic and adjusting their own lives to the changes it mandates, certain organizations, like museums, are struggling to attract visitors. Compared to the year 2019, the attendance to the museum during the months of August through November was down an average of 55% this year. Events at the museum, which provides a major source of revenue, is down 75%. A majority of employees work an average of 2-3 days from home per week. The educational programs that Wings provides, which previously saw students running about flying model airplanes and even building an actual plane, are being moved to virtual platforms or are being cancelled entirely. The question for places like museums is not “when will it be safe to return,” because the 182,000 square foot hangar boasted by this museum is more socially distanced than your local grocery store. The question is, “when will people feel financially and mentally comfortable to return to optional places such as museums.” Until society can step up and do what is necessary to return life to normal, the hope is that the educational and fascinating gems, like the Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum, can keep its doors open to see that day.

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This item was submitted on December 8, 2020 by Katherine Siriano using the form “Share Your Story” on the site “A Journal of the Plague Year”:

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