“I have such pride in this museum, that we were bold enough to reopen when and how we did, and to do it in a way that preserved the safety of our volunteers and visitors and staff...It's almost in our blood at NEAM, to be able to rise to meet whatever challenge is thrown at us, and adapt to it, and overcome it, and become better.”
- Amanda Goodheart Parks, Ph.D., Director of Education
The New England Air Museum has faced challenges from the very beginning, and 2020 is no exception. As the museum prepared to celebrate its 60th anniversary, a global pandemic was spreading across the world. On March 13, 2020, the museum voluntarily closed its doors to help slow the spread of COVID-19. It would remain closed for more than two months, the organization's longest closure since the 1979 tornado. During the closure, the museum's staff and volunteers continued their work in fulfilling the organization's mission from the safety of their homes. They launched NEAMathome, a collection of educational resources, videos, activities, and other content to support families, teachers, and students who had pivoted to remote learning, and maintained an active presence on social media to keep visitors engaged.
While the months of March and April were filled with uncertainty, a light at the end of the tunnel came when Gov. Ned Lamont announced outdoor museums and zoos could reopen in late May. As in the case of the tornado of 1979, NEAM moved to an outdoor only operational model, showcasing its outdoor aircraft and grounds as well as opening hangar doors to give visitors a peek at the collection inside.
By the end of June, NEAM was able to open the interior exhibits as well, operating as an "open air" museum. Hangar doors were left wide open throughout the summer and early fall to provide visitors with much needed ventilation, one of many precautions taken by staff and volunteers as part of the organization's COVID-19 Reopening Plan. At a time when many museums have been forced to close their doors for good, the New England Air Museum continues to serve visitors both in-person and remotely, fulfilling its mission even during these challenging times.