MIT is, rightfully, addressing physical campus access with a considered and careful approach. Most staff members are unable to return to our campus. People authorized to be onsite need to complete medical testing and daily attestation for tracking.
The museum has been making progress on regaining access by arguing we are a research facility and our collections are an asset that needs maintenance and care. By definition, our collections team are research staff and have an essential need to be on campus.
Furthermore, very soon, we're going to run into a major show-stopper on our Kendall exhibitions process. For detailed exhibition design, we will need to have access to artifacts to confirm measurements, finalize object selections, assess conditions, etc. So, we are prioritizing collections team access over others and that team is preparing for a safe return.
At the beginning of COVID-19 work-from-home, I made sure to get myself on the team that is regularly checking in on the museum. We do maintain a server room in the museum, so I need to go into the building to check on equipment.
For example, this week the campus had a large power outage. Luckily our servers are on UPC backup, so the batteries kicked in and kept everything running smoothly. While there, I spent a little extra time in the building to prepare some projectors and media players we will be using for a window display. It felt good to do real, physical work in the space with more purpose than "checking on things."
That said, I can do most of my job from my office in my home. I suspect that as the collections team returns to campus, I won't need to be at the museum much and will likely opt to remain away for as long as I can so that my colleagues can spread out and work safely.
It's also become apparent that the whole MIT campus is going to remain fairly locked-up for most people through at least the end of the calendar year. This, of course, will likely impact our on-site availability to our community. As other museums are opening in our area, we are governed by MIT's policies. We will be saying more about this soon.
I'm disheartened as I watch museums continue to shed staff and wonder which of them are going to make it out the other end. I'm feeling fortunate to be at a university museum. We actually in the process of building and even hiring. While nothing is ever certain, I do feel a small bit of comfort in a belief in MIT's commitment to its people and also to the museum's mission.
For now, I'm continuing to hunker down. It's time for staying put and trying to remain comfortable and productive.
It's not easy. Survivor's guilt is no joke.
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