Whately Select Board approves plan for reopening Historical Society museum

  • Members of the Whately Historical Society put the finishing touches on a display for the society’s annual Spring Festival in 2017. STAFF FILE PHOTO/ANDY CASTILLO

Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 17, 2020

WHATELY — The Selectboard has approved a plan for the Historical Society to reopen its museum at Town Hall for the use of members, provided its plans are amended to include a method for contact tracing.

The approval on Wednesday followed a previous meeting during which the board asked the Historical Society to review its plans with the Board of Health before seeking Selectboard approval.

“One of the things advised by the Board of Health as optimal when there are multiple people in a space is to ... circulate fresh air so you don’t have stagnant air,” said Neal Abraham, speaking on behalf of the Historical Society. “For security reasons and storm window reasons, we don’t have a way to open the windows in the museum space, but we can open the door to the hallway and get some air circulation.”

He added that the society has ordered an air purifier that he expects to have the first week of December.

“That will help to reduce any residual aerosols that might be in the air from people who might otherwise be somewhat contagious,” Abraham said. “Though we propose not to admit anyone who has shown symptoms or diagnosed positive.”

Abraham said the plan, once approved, would allow the society to reopen its doors to small, socially distanced groups for the purpose of working on projects.

“We’re authorized at the moment to have one person at a time in the space,” he said.

Among other things, the plan includes requiring masks be worn by all visitors, a maximum of six people in the museum and no more than one person in the office, and requiring hand sanitizer — provided by the society — be used before entering any rooms.

Francis Fortino, chair of the Board of Health, said he “certainly recommends” the use of air purifiers.

“We need something that would at least purify it to limit exposure,” Fortino said. “In general, the Board of Health is not encouraging any indoor gatherings, but this one has been thought out, and I think — as Neal mentioned — if you take all the precautions that are in this document and follow them, it’s probably the best we can get to allow that use to happen.”

In reviewing the plan, Selectboard member Jonathan Edwards expressed concern for the size of the space.

“I can’t imagine you can fit three people in that space and have the 6-foot guidelines adhered to,” he said.

But Abraham said the dimensions of the space — about 18 feet by 30 feet — allow for six people to be spaced about 10 feet a part.

“I was just thinking that those rooms are like those tents in Harry Potter,” joked Selectboard member Joyce Palmer-Fortune. “They’re just bigger on the inside.”

She added that if the Board of Health signed off on the plan, it was likely “well thought out” and in adherence with current safety standards.

Before voting to approve the plan, which received a unanimous vote of support from the Selectboard, Edwards asked that the Historical Society amend it to include a plan for contact tracing.

Mary Byrne can be reached at mbyrne@recorder.com or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne