How Museums Are Helping Keep Essential Workers Safe

This post was written in collaboration with the Association of Children’s Museums (ACM) and is crossposted on the ACM blog.

  • Updated on April 27 to add The Franklin Institute and Gateway to Science.

Children’s museums and science centers have overwhelmingly closed in response to COVID-19. While museums can no longer welcome visitors, they are leveraging their facilities, knowledge, and community connections to remain responsive to their communities.

Throughout this crisis, limited supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontline workers has been an ongoing concern. Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen Association of Children’s Museums (ACM) and Association of Science and Technology Centers (ASTC) members embark on projects to help bolster PPE and face mask supplies.

3D printers can be found in many museum makerspaces—or behind the scenes, where designers use them to fabricate exhibits. In recent weeks, many museums are using this technology to create PPE! Museums are working in collaboration with their local partners, ensuring that what they produce meets local needs and standards of use:

  • Adventure Science Center (Nashville, Tennessee) Innovation Incubator is not only making ear savers with their 3D printers, but also sewing fabric masks that are donated to local hospital and beyond.
  • DISCOVERY Children’s Museum (Las Vegas, Nevada) is using their 3D printers to make medical-grade headpieces for local healthcare professionals. Using both of the museum’s devices, they’re creating 25 face shields each day!
  • The Franklin Institute (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) has launched a 3D Printing for Health Care initiate that is producing face shield visor bands to be deployed to local hospitals and health care workers as part of CoverAid PHL. All six of the institute’s 3D printers are running from the homes of trained staff.
Courtesy: The Franklin Institute
  • Gateway to Science (Bismarck, North Dakota) is working with the North Dakota Department of Health to create face shields, masks, and other protective gear. They are also coordinating with other people and organizations across the state to provide a local source of this equipment. So far, they have received about 3,000 requests for face guards.
  • LaunchPAD Children’s Museum (Sioux City, Iowa) is 3D printing ear savers and face shield frames for hospital personnel on the frontlines. To get started, they collaborated with a technology company along with other local organizations.
  • MOXI, The Wolf Museum of Exploration + Innovation (Santa Barbara, California) is 3D printing PPE for local healthcare workers in their Innovation Workshop, in collaboration with Santa Barbara Foundation, University of California Santa Barbara, Cottage Health, and local makers. The museum uses the 3D modeling program TinkerCad to create simple designs, and encourages families to explore possibilities, shapes, and variables with this free tool.
  • The Science Spectrum and Omni Theater (Lubbock, Texas) is 3D printing face shield headbands for West Texas hospitals and emergency units. The museum’s FabLab team got started after responding to a call from Texas Tech University and Texas Tech Health Sciences Center.

Museums are also leveraging their roles as knowledge-sharers and conveners to assist medical professionals and help the public maintain their personal safety:

  • KidZone Museum (Truckee, California) launched That’s Sew Tahoe, a mask-making project for local hospitals. Under guidance from their community partners, the museum is coordinating with local sewers and makers to collect cloth masks. While not as effective as medical-grade masks, cloth masks allow hospitals to preserve essential PPE for high-risk situations.

Even with their doors closed, museums are working to serve their communities. For more information about what museums are doing in this time, check out ACM’s recent blog post Conversations with Children’s Museums Leaders around COVID-19, and its list of Children’s Museum Virtual Activities, and ASTC’s blog and COVID-19 resource section

The Association of Children’s Museums (ACM) champions children’s museums worldwide. Follow ACM on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram. The Association of Science and Technology Centers (ASTC) works toward its vision of increased understanding of—and engagement with—science and technology among all people. Follow ASTC on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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