THE NEW ENGLAND AQUARIUM and the Museum of Science are back on their heels right now, but the leaders of the two institutions say they hope to reopen in July with different business models and agendas.
Both institutions shut down in mid-March in response to the coronavirus. The aquarium relies on ticket sales and events for 80 percent of its revenue, and all of that income disappeared. At the Museum of Science, the number is 55 percent. The aquarium, which still has 20,000 animals to take care of, laid off or furloughed half its staff while the Museum of Science furloughed or laid off two-thirds of its staff.
Tim Ritchie, who took over as president of the Museum of Science in February, said on the Codcast that the closing was a huge shock to the institution. But he said it was also a wakeup call, bringing issues to the fore that had not been addressed adequately before.
Ritchie said he took the job at the Museum of Science knowing the institution was too reliant on earned revenue, but COVID-19 has driven home that overdependence and the need to make a case for greater philanthropic support. Ritchie said COVID-19 has also provided the storyline for making the case for philanthropic support.
“Strangely, this is a public science moment like we haven’t had in my entire lifetime,” Ritchie said. “So as bad as it is, it’s still our moment to step into it and to say science has become public and participatory like never before. Everyone who wears a mask is a citizen scientist. Everyone who maintains social distancing is a citizen scientist. Where but these cultural institutions can we have a conversation with the values that can build a science-literate society?”