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Bluegrass Music Museum Reopens June 17 with 'Healthy at Work' Precautions In Place

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Rhonda J. Miller
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The Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Owensboro is reopening on June 17 after being closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But the museum's annual four-day outdoor music festival, ROMP, which was scheduled for the end of June, won't be held this year. 

WKU Public Radio reporter Rhonda Miller talked with Executive Director Chris Joslin, who said visitors will find things a bit different now, with the museum's Wednesday through Saturday schedule and 'Healthy at Work' precautions in place.

 

Joslin: I think, like a lot of things, as many of us come out of COVID-19, it's going to be a process. It's going to be an evolutionary process. We're following requirements and guidelines from the state. And we're also consulting our local regional health department, as well, on guidelines. A lot of signage and we're having to change some of our processes in terms of flow and limiting some of the hands-on interactives, so certainly making adjustments like everyone else.

Miller: Are you limiting the people who come in, or a certain amount of time, or what are you expecting?

Joslin: Yeah, we will certainly monitor that. One thing about the Hall of Fame and Museum is that the flow of people typically into the exhibit area at the museum and the museum store is usually a steady manageable flow. But we'll certainly be monitoring that to ensure proper social distancing for visitors.

Miller: So, at this point, it's really just the exhibit area and the museum shop?

Joslin: Yeah, so no private events, no group lessons. Virtually no access to hands-on interactives within the museum, which is a real shame. That's a big part of experiencing, you know, bluegrass, especially at our place is to play music on, you know, professional grade instruments.

Miller: That's what I was thinking. The “Pickin’ Parlor” is one of the most interesting and fun things there. So, the “Pickin’ Parlor” will be closed?

Joslin: Right, folks can certainly gaze upon the “Pickin’ Parlor.” And we'll have a flat screen there of someone demonstrating those instruments and actually singing some songs that you can sing along with, as well. So, again, just making the best of the situation to the extent that we can, to still make it interesting and fun and interactive and educational.

Miller: You only have a few employees, I guess, are they wearing gloves or masks? Or how many employees are there that'll be working?

Joslin: We'll have a combination of a handful of full-time employees, and a handful of part-time employees, as well, that will be scheduled and yeah, we'll be wearing masks and gloves. And that'll be strongly encouraged for visitors as well, but not a requirement. You know, I think last calendar year we had about 36,000 folks through that building.

Miller: So, you had 36,000 people come through? Would that be the calendar year 2019? 

Joslin: Yeah. 

Miller: And you opened in…?

Joslin: We opened in the fall of 2018.

Miller: So that was your first whole year open. That's a lot of people. Should we say anything about the economic hit? I know it's hit the budget and you know, basically a lot of the ways you have revenue coming in, you don't have it.

Joslin: Well, certainly like most everyone, I think COVID-19 has put a strain on our budget. And so, like a lot of folks, you sort of shift from managing the budget to just survival. But we are a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. So fortunate in that our revenue is both earned revenue and contributed revenue, which means, you know, we have grant money for specific programs, we have a donor base. So, between managing that well, and tightening our expenses, we're just like most folks. We're hanging on and hopefully get to next spring when we get back into our cycle, or full cycle.

Miller: Thank you, Chris. 

Rhonda Miller joined WKU Public Radio in 2015. She has worked as Gulf Coast reporter for Mississippi Public Broadcasting, where she won Associated Press, Edward R. Murrow and Green Eyeshade awards for stories on dead sea turtles, health and legal issues arising from the 2010 BP oil spill and homeless veterans.
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