The Maine Maritime Museum on Washington Street in Bath is open but is restricting the number of visitors allowed in some exhibits to allow space for physical distancing. Photo courtesy of the Maine Maritime Museum

BATH — After a three-month closure due to the threat of COVID-19, the Maine Maritime Museum in Bath is reopening with a few restrictions to protect visitors and staff.

On Tuesday, June 2, the museum will welcome visitors and resume normal business hours, which are 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Some of the smaller exhibits in the building will remain closed because physical distancing isn’t possible, while other indoor exhibits will have a limit on the number of people that can enter at a time.

Amy Lent, the museum’s executive director, said museum had to adapt to meet state virus restrictions while giving visitors the entertaining and educational experience they expect. She said the museum’s theater is closed and physical guided tours are on pause, but guests can follow new audio tours on their cell phones.

“We’ve created a lot of new material that acts as an alternative for people to get that same educational experience as you would with a tour guide,” said Lent. “People are going to be looking for positive experiences and we’re going to do what we can to provide them.”

The museum also is using its 20-acre campus to host new outdoor demonstrations of traditional shipbuilding practices, such as blacksmithing and nautical carving.

“One of our missions is preserving the traditional skills used in Maine shipbuilding,” said Katie Spiridakis, the museum’s marketing and communications manager. “We needed more dynamic experiences in the shipyard, and I certainly think they’ll continue beyond these restrictions, so I think it’s a blessing in disguise.”

Spiridakis said she’s happy the museum is able to open in time for summer, when they typically see the number of visitors surge. Typically, attendance is highest in June, July and August, which together account for half the total year’s attendance. In June 2019, the museum saw 6,400 visitors, roughly 12% of that year’s annual attendance.

To control the number of daily visitors and stay within the state’s group size restrictions, the museum is asking visitors to purchase tickets online in advance. Only 50 tickets will be sold each day, as state guidelines prohibit gatherings exceeding 50, and visitors can either choose to arrive in the morning from 9:30 a.m. to noon or in the afternoon from 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.

The museum is also strongly encouraging visitors to wear face masks, but it is not a requirement. All staff members will wear masks “but we will not be asking our staff to police our guests,” according to Spiridakis.

“We’re a little anxious to see how our guests respond to our restrictions, but I think everyone wants to enjoy themselves,” said Spiridakis. “We’re trying to keep this as light and fun as possible while complying with state guidelines. We’ll be adjusting on the fly as things are changing every day.”

Amanda McDaniel, executive director of Maine Street Bath, said she’s excited to have the museum open again because it draws tourists into Bath from both across the country and around the world.

“The Maine Maritime Museum is usually a dot on the map on what people must do on their route from Portland to Acadia,” said McDaniel. “They do a great job of engaging everybody. Anyone can walk in and find something that interests them.”

She said people often stop in Bath to see Bath Iron Works, which isn’t open to visitors, but the museum next door tells the story of how shipbuilding in Maine evolved into what happens behind the gates of BIW every day.

“They’re vital to who we are in Bath,” said McDaniel. “They do a wonderful job of representing our maritime history.”

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