Preparation, Preparation, Preparation!

by Geoff Rowe, Assistant Director of Operations and Visitor Services
Everyone at the Museum is looking forward to welcoming you back. The Museum thrives on life and people being inside. Whether it’s being a bustling flower market with traders buying their stock, or the best museum of urban transport, people should be in the building. We want to see people in the Museum learning about London and how transport has shaped our great city and see our friends enjoying themselves again.
Inside London Transport Museum looking down over the vehicles from the first floor

Since we closed, we have not stood still and have been cleaning every part of the Museum and that will continue. Being open non-stop for 13 years makes it difficult to have a real crack at cleaning some areas that might require more attention, so the temporary closure has been a great opportunity to do this work. Glen and Ruben have been working diligently to ensure the place looks great when we all return. Apparently taking 13 years of polish off the floor is a tough task!

Inside London Transport Museum shop, with a focus on the clean floor tiles with four covered stands of shop products.
We are also busy planning for re-opening and this is throwing up a number of new considerations we have not had to think about before in an operational environment.  We have four over-riding key principles we are taking into account in order to welcome you back. These are:
  1. Numbers – how many visitors can safely visit with social distancing guidelines in place?
  2. Cleanliness – the Museum has to be safe for staff and our friends who visit
  3. Social distancing – what is the new visitor experience like?
  4. Reassurance – achieve the recognised kitemark standard on cleanliness and communicate what we are doing

We will ensure that we have listened to feedback from multiple sources such as the government, public surveys, colleagues from outside attractions who are opening now and retailers, so we can deliver a comfortable and confidant visit for you.

We are also learning from TfL and the measures they are putting on across their network to keep us all safe.  We will have enhanced day to day cleaning measures in place and increased cleaning at high touch point areas with high performance disinfectant. On top of this, we are looking in to implementing a sanitising regime every 21 days, where the Museum is cleaned with a surface sanitiser that will kill bacteria for 28 days.  We will also look at what other new technology is available, learning daily about what is possible with the goal of ensuring everyone enjoys their visit in a safe environment.

Cleaning products including two mops and buckets, a blue, red and green bucket sitting next to a table with cleaning rotas
There may also be an exciting opportunity to open the Depot in Acton, so more people can see this Aladdin’s cave. More details on this to come…
We will keep working on getting the building and team ready to deliver on your expectations. We hope to welcome you again soon.
Picture from inside the Museum looking through the shutters out onto Covent Garden Piazza. Two people can be seen outside in the Piazza

A Visit to Covent Garden

By Sam Mullins OBE, Museum Director

It really was time to get out from behind the laptop; two months on from suspending our operations at Covent Garden and beyond it was time to go and make sure for myself that the Museum was still there. A brisk five-mile cycle ride on a sunny afternoon would be just the ticket, a slice of lockdown London from Hackney to Westminster. Pumped up the tyres, oiled the moving parts, dug out my helmet and hi-vis jacket and I was soon rolling past De Beauvoir Square with its socially distanced families enjoying the sun, residential terraces, Wilmington Square with children playing, through streets empty of people but houses and flats full of activity.

The City Road was nose-to-tail traffic, construction site on Pitfield St was back to work, vans delivering and joggers and purposeful walkers out on the quiet side streets. Buses passed with a few separated passengers. I passed a string of closed museums; the Postal Museum and Mail Rail, Dickens House and the British Museum itself, all like us wondering when and, in some cases, how they would open again. As I approached Covent Garden, the city became noticeably more empty; no shops to service, no hotels open, just a few solitary individuals marvelling at the emptied out metropolis, one solitary couple eating ice creams on the Piazza; ‘where did they get those from?’ I wondered.

Outside of London Transport Museum in Covent Garden

The London Transport Museum is in suspended animation; the lifeblood of its visitors, sounds and videos frozen, its shop just waiting for the footstep of a customer to spring back into life, those polished buses and trains awaiting the next passenger to be engaged and tell the stories of transport in London, the Hidden London exhibition itself hidden away.

View from second floor looking down over buses inside London Transport Museum. Maintenance man walking across Museum floor

In the shop, the merchandise was under wraps, the tills open and empty, the screens at the entrance desk flickering blankly. But our ABM cleaning team have deep cleaned the entire museum and ten years of wax removed from the floors which makes them as good as new again.

View from first floor looking into London Transport Museum Shop. All shop products covered with dust sheets

Toy monkey covered in dust sheet

The Piazza had metaphorical tumbleweed blowing across it, despite a golden sunny afternoon; shops all closed, bars and pubs blanked up. Security guards patrolled in pairs, rubbish bins emptied, a scatter of fellow sightseers shared the unaccustomed peace and quiet. It was awe-inspiring to see the usually frantic Piazza free of people.

Covent Garden piazza with no people

But in workrooms and box rooms, on kitchen tables and desks across London, the Museum is very much alive. Working remotely, the ‘bare bones’ Museum team are planning our future. Online trading has nearly doubled in lockdown as gifts and games are despatched, while home educational materials and new digital content such as the Hidden London hang-outs and Poster Power have also kept the LTM flag flying. We are now taking in research insights and experience from European transport museums on what our customers will need when they return to us; enforced social distancing, visible cleanliness, signage and floor markings to name but a few but above all a warm welcome back. We will issue guidance on walking and cycling to Covent Garden, offer online timed tickets, contactless payments, hand sanitisers and no queues in the not too distant future.

So, we get creative, plan and then change our plans as the situation develops, as government and mayoral advice and public sentiment moves on. Our earliest hope is to offer something at Covent Garden and maybe Acton Depot for some part of the summer holidays. This Welcome Back blog will keep you in touch with our thinking and plans, and respond to your questions and suggestions. And it goes without saying, we are very keen to be welcoming you back just as soon as possible. Watch this space.

Sam Mullins taking a photograph of himself in a mirror, positioned in Canteen