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Arms Museum ready for reopening

Dave Ragan, communications manager of the Mahoning Valley Historical Society, talks about the protocols put in place in advance of the Arms Family Museum reopening Friday. (Staff photo / Andy Gray)

YOUNGSTOWN — The Mahoning Valley Historical Society reopened its Tyler History Center last month. The Arms Family Museum required extra care.

“Even though both structures are historic in nature, this one takes extra special care due to its age, and it was a historic home,” Dave Ragan, communications manager of the MVHS, said. “Part of the whole transfer to the historical society was about preserving the main floor as it was when Olive Arms lived here.”

The museum at 648 Wick Ave. will reopen Friday after being closed for nearly five months because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Those anti-bacterial cleaners that are fine for modern-day surfaces can’t be used on the delicate wood of a home built in 1905. A special solution can be used on some of the railings in the house, Ragan said, but other segments can’t be wiped down with anything liquid.

“It’s all different surfaces that all require different kinds of cleaning methods,” he said.

Access to the main floor and the second floor will remain essentially the same. The basement level, which contains its hands-on history activities will be closed, although some of the activities will be available as take-home kits that can be picked up at the end of the tour. The main bathrooms will be closed with only the single-use, handicap-accessible bathroom available.

Only 10 people will be allowed to tour the house at the same time, essentially limiting occupancy to two groups of four people and a tour guide for each group.

“We’re excited to reopen, but we have an open-with-care approach,” Ragan said. “We’re being ultra conservative about how we’re conducting these high-public spaces. We’re being frank with people. It’s in their best interests and it’s in our best interests.”

Visitors will be required to practice social distancing and to wear face masks unless they have a medical condition that exempts them. Those who arrive without a face mask will be given one.

MVHS has taken the knowledge it gained with the Tyler History Center reopening and tweaked some of its policies for the Arms Museum’s return.

“We had a chance to really observe how people go through spaces in this new world,” Ragan said. “What we decided to do here was we have to limit even more the amount of people who stand in a room or pass through spaces because they are much tighter. We will ask the public to be patient as we maneuver people through the house. We have to be careful for everyone’s protection.”

They also decided to change the original policy, which required people to make tour reservations in advance. At the Tyler History Center, walk-ins exceeded the number of groups with reservations.

“We decided to embrace it but prepare for it,” Ragan said. “We’re no long pre-registering for admission, but we do ask that people call ahead (330-743-2589) to make sure we can accommodate them. We’re very strict with occupancy rates in each room, in each space.”

A display area has been set up in the gift shop, and staff will be available to help them view items and minimize contact with merchandise. Instead of having one admission charge good for a same-day visit to both the Arms Family Museum and the Tyler History Center, they have cut the admission in half for each venue so visitors can limit their trip to only one venue if they want. The business and media archives in the back building will be open by appointment.

If you go …

WHAT: Arms Family Museum reopening

WHEN: Hours are noon to 4 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday

WHERE: 648 Wick Ave., Youngstown

HOW MUCH: $3.50 for adults, $3 for senior citizens and college students, $2.50 for children ages 3 to 18, and free for children 2 and younger, Mahoning Valley Historical Society members and active military and veterans. For more information, call 330-743-2589.

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