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Most Tampa Bay museums will remain closed, for now

Despite being included in the first phase of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ plan to slowly reopen Florida, most local museums will remain shuttered.

Museums, retail stores and libraries are among the establishments that are allowed to open on Monday, under the new executive order that Gov. Ron DeSantis announced April 29.

Related: Florida will start lifting stay at home orders on Monday.

There would be restrictions, including opening at no more than 25 percent of their building occupancy. And interactive exhibits and child play areas would remain closed.

But many Tampa Bay museums have no plans to reopen just yet. Others contacted by the Times didn’t respond in time for publication.

Most major libraries are not opening Monday, either. Pasco County is making plans to reopen its libraries, but has no firm dates. Pinellas County said each library is under jurisdiction of its municipality, but there are tentative dates for the individual libraries ranging from May 11 to June 1.

University of South Florida’s Contemporary Art Museum in Tampa will remain closed in keeping with the school’s guidelines. Ditto for the Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art, which sits on St. Petersburg College’s Tarpon Springs Campus.

The Tampa Museum of Art said in an email that it “is actively planning to take the necessary precautions outlined by the CDC and local government authorities for a future reopening.” But they don’t have a definitive date yet.

The Florida Holocaust Museum said they are waiting for more guidance from Pinellas County and the city of St. Petersburg, and that their plans to reopen to the public will span several months as they ensure the appropriate safeguards for the public and their employees. The Morean Arts Center, which owns the Chihuly Collection, are likewise waiting for the guidance.

In a phone interview on Friday, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman spokesperson Ben Kirby said the City of St. Petersburg was waiting to see what Pinellas County decides about the governor’s order.

The James Museum for Western and Wildlife Art said in an emailed statement that “the health, safety and experience of our employees and visitors are top of mind as our team thoughtfully looks at the various aspects of how and when we will reopen.”

A portion of the James Museum of Western and Wildlife Art.
A portion of the James Museum of Western and Wildlife Art. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]

The Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg is also remaining closed, citing the health of its members, visitors, staff and volunteers as its top priority.

“While we are eager to serve our community as a place of safety and refuge, we will reopen when we are confident that doing so would not jeopardize the health or safety of our staff and visitors,”executive director Kristen Shepherd said in an email.

Blue light illuminates exterior hallways at the Museum of Fine Arts in downtown St. Petersburg.
Blue light illuminates exterior hallways at the Museum of Fine Arts in downtown St. Petersburg. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]

Hank Hine, executive director of the Dalí Museum, expressed a similar sentiment in an emailed statement.

“Like all organizations, particularly those in our non-profit circle who have been impacted significantly, The Dalí needs to carefully balance our eagerness to reopen with the need for public health and safety," he said. "The financial implications of our closure during this time have been extreme, yet they do not outweigh the health of our staff, volunteers, members and visitors. Our leadership team and board have been feverishly working on new operational strategies to adapt to this ever-changing environment. We will announce a reopening plan once we’ve measured all of the financial, health and staff implications.”

A portion of the Enigma, the 75-foot-tall glass entryway at the Dali Museum, is illuminated with blue light on April 22.
A portion of the Enigma, the 75-foot-tall glass entryway at the Dali Museum, is illuminated with blue light on April 22. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]

All of the museums said they are continuing to create online content to engage their audiences.

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