V&A Dundee

Making V&A Dundee: Open again

This series usually celebrates creative responses to V&A Dundee, but having recently re-opened the museum during a pandemic, it feels right to celebrate two important groups of people who truly make V&A Dundee what it is: our Visitor Assistants and the people who visit us.

After opening our doors for the first time in September 2018, we never imagined having to close them 18 months later. With COVID 19 leading to lockdowns all over the world, the museum was forced to close, along with restaurants, shops and more, all over the country.

Once restrictions were lifted, we got to work getting ready to re-open at the end of August 2020. Our main concern was always the safety and wellbeing of our frontline staff and visitors coming to the museum. We put a range of new measures in place for everyone's safety, including reduced opening times and capacities, pre-booked entry, an updated layout to ensure physical distancing and hand sanitising stations, amongst others.

Like most museums, we didn't really know how our visitors would respond to these changes. Would anyone still want to visit cultural institutions? Would those who did feel comfortable and safe? And how can we support our fantastic Visitor Assistants to allow them to provide the amazing welcome they're known for in this new world?

Shortly after re-opening, four of our Visitor Assistants spoke to the wider museum team at one of our all-staff meetings over video call. They discussed how lockdown affected them, shared their concerns for coming back to work and reflected on their first few weeks of re-opening. They regaled us with touching and emotional anecdotes from their interactions with visitors and were pleased to report that visitors were adapting well and enjoyed their visits to the museum.

We were so touched by their reflections, that we wanted to share what Lucy, Russell, Kate and Davy had to say with you. You can listen to their talks below and find out more information about some of the exhibitions they mention.

Lucy Hendry

Hear Lucy talk about being stuck at home during lockdown and what it was like coming back to work at the museum. Lucy tells us about getting back into a routine and facing visitors again, something she'd missed but also felt a bit nervous about.

Lucy also talks about some of her most memorable interactions with visitors to Mary Quant since we re-opened and how glad she is that our visitors feel safe and comfortable.

Russell Pepper

Russell tells us about looking forward to coming back to the museum and how the experience has changed for him and for our visitors. He talks about some visitors he's met since we re-opened who were excited to finally visit and who shared all sort of stories of what they'd been up to over lockdown.

Russell also talks about some memorable interactions with visitors to Making Room, an installation by Assemble (our Designers in Residence) that reproduces fragments of historic buildings in Dundee.

Kate Willatts

Kate shares her own experiences of lockdown. From her family's involvement in Dundee's Scrub Hub to large-scale call outs to make face coverings, she's proud of the huge effort people in and around Dundee have made.

You'll also hear Kate talk about visitors to the restaurant and exhibitions and how they felt safe and comfortable. From helping people visiting Mary Quant to having emotional and challenging exchanges in Now Accepting Contactless. The latter exhibition brings together objects revealing the many ways designers and citizens have used their skills in the pandemic.

Davy Johnston

Davy spent three months of lockdown working for the NHS and here he reflects on the measures in place at the hospital. He looked forward to some normality coming back to the museum, despite the need for special measures here too.

Our visitors have adapted really well to the new way of doing things and Davy sheds a light on that. He also reflects on how the different exhibitions we have on at the moment are being received by our visitors, from the "lovely and safe" Mary Quant to the more "thought-provoking" Now Accepting Contactless.

Lucy Hendry, Russell Pepper, Kate Willatts and Davy Johnston are all Visitor Assistants at V&A Dundee. A huge thanks to them and the rest of the Visitor Assitant team for their hard work and dedication.