COLLEGE STATION, TX — Since Mar. 13, 2020, not a soul has passed through the rotunda of the George H.W. Bush Presidential Museum located on Texas A&M’s campus, save for a few staff members keeping the property secure and clean.
“We fall under the administration of the National Archives and Records Administration [NARA] in Washington, D.C., so we are kind of in the same boat as the other 14 presidential libraries," explained David Anaya, spokesperson for the Bush library and museum. "[NARA] are looking at every library individually, and they’re looking at the local infection rates.”
NARA's website notes that currently all presidential museums are closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as are all presidential libraries' national archive research rooms.
The Bush Museum’s 32 federal employees are working from home, Anaya said, with their salaries upheld by the federal government.
The George and Barbara Bush Foundation, a nonprofit which runs programming for the museum, is maintaining the museum gift shop online.
Anaya said although the foundation is suffering from not receiving ticket sales, overall the museum is still in safe financial standing.
“Even though we’re closed, we’re still doing a lot of things," he commented. "Ever since we closed, we’ve been preparing the museum to reopen. And you’re like - what do you mean? But we didn’t assume [the pandemic] was going to be this long when it started.”
Anaya and his colleagues have been working hard to provide some educational programming through videos posted to social media, and even via a podcast updated regularly on the museum website.
Staff also dedicate time to planning for the museum’s eventual re-opning.
“I think [the museum] is not going to be - maybe not open as long," Anaya said, referring to future hours of operation. "We may be limiting our hours at the beginning, and maybe not having as many people [inside]. We’re going to be looking at the amount of people per hour in the building, as opposed to just letting as many people as we can come along.”
For the time being, Anaya expressed that it may be too soon to tell when NARA will allow the Bush Museum to reopen.
“We are hoping, like everybody else, to open as soon as possible," he said. "We know how much the library and museum mean. [They] mean a lot to the community. And we just really enjoy being in the community, to be able to provide what we can."
Visitors are still welcome to tour the outdoor grounds of the museum in-person during normal business hours. Virtual walk throughs and audio tours are also available for free on the museum website, along with free access to educational materials and the George & Barbara Bush Foundation podcast. For more infomation, visit www.bush41.org.