Navigating a pandemic, museum-style | Neighborhood Options

Elasticity. This is the first word that comes to mind in the last 16 months when I think of the University of Alaska Museum of the North (UAMN). During its nearly centenary, UAMN has faced many challenges, but the Covid-19 pandemic was a storm for the record books. Like our parent organization, the University of Alaska, our staff and supporters everywhere have recognized the importance of serving our expanded community of stakeholders, especially during this global crisis.

Like most US museums, the pandemic has had a profound impact on our operations on many levels. To begin with, we reluctantly closed our doors to the public on March 13, 2020 and closed our physical exhibits for several months. Instructor-led K-12 tours of our galleries, which usually thrived in the spring season, came to an abrupt halt when distance learning became the norm. And students, lecturers and visiting scholars who had planned study and scientific work in our collections did not have access to the largest individual holdings of cultural and natural history collections in the country.

Although it was necessary, we were sad to close our public galleries. When we finally reopened in July 2020, the number of visitors was only 5% of the 2019 figures. This had significant consequences for our financial results. As government funding for the university continues to decline, the UAMN has increasingly relied on admissions and store sales for our bread and butter. In a normal year, visitor income is nearly 50 percent of our total annual income (followed by grants and then government dollars). Hence, the almost lack of tourism in 2020 led to an extreme belt buckle.

In the face of financial uncertainty, largely teleworking staff, and ever evolving plans to contain Covid that restricted access to buildings, the museum faced a critical threat to fulfill its core mission of collecting, preserving Alaska’s cultural and natural history to study, teach and exhibit. As a state and federal archive, many agencies also rely on UAMN to house public collections as we have the facilities and expertise to care for Alaska’s treasures. The fact that we did not wait idly for better times shows the commitment and dedication of our employees. Rather, we have recognized the urgency to continue serving our large community of stakeholders, especially during these troubled times. We also took this unforeseen opportunity to adapt and diversify.

On the surface, shutting down a museum’s operations may seem trivial, especially our research collections, which take up much of the museum’s lower level. In reality, the collections are a dynamic, lively, constantly changing unit. Similar to a centuries-old wooden sailing ship, you have to constantly repair the sails, tar the rigging and pump the holds. Failure to do the thousands of tasks puts the entire ship at risk. Likewise, UAMN’s diverse holdings, which include over 2.5 million art and artifacts, plant and animal specimens, and my personal favorites – fossils, need to be cleaned, preserved, repositioned, monitored, loan processing and databases created. It’s a never-ending task. Our collections also include one of the largest frozen tissue samples in the country, stored in liquid nitrogen cryovates and used by researchers around the world to track genetic changes, diseases and environmental pollutants in plants and animals. Simply put, simply turning off the lights and coming back a year later is never an option.

We also strived to better serve our visitors, who number up to 90,000 in a year without a pandemic. Most importantly, UAMN can now proudly boast the only articulated and suspended bowhead whale skeleton in North America. The bowhead whale is an iconic species of the Arctic, and our specimen, harvested by Iñupiaq whalers in Utqiagvik in 1963, shows the tightly woven fabric that is both cultural and natural. The project was financed at the end of 2019 through a generous gift from the Bill Ströcker Foundation. When the Covid-19 clouds began to gather in early 2020, we decided not to throw this project off track with the pandemic. Indeed, the bowhead whale has become a symbol of our collective desire and perseverance to make the most of a bad situation. Assembling the skeleton and producing a new special exhibition, Perspective: Ways to See a Whale, provided much-needed inspiration during the 16 month process and brought together the talents of many different museum and university employees who are committed to completing this world used. Show class.

Knowing that many families could not come to our exhibits for over a year, we invested a lot of energy in putting our exhibits online to share at home. We have expanded our virtual museum ( to include additional exhibits and collections, video podcasts, as well as activities and lesson plans. Via our immersive app (free to download) you can now also enjoy an interactive 3D replica of our exhibition “ShAKe: Earthquakes in Interior Alaska”. In autumn 2020 we acquired the internationally known bus 142 (“Into the Wild Bus”) and are in the process of preparing it for a later exhibition for a free outdoor exhibition. We even moved our museum shop to a wonderful new space and we now have many products online.

Our education and public programs team continued to deliver creative new ways, such as virtual versions of our popular family programs. They also created and distributed almost 1,000 educational packages for families so that they can get to know our museum collections in a hands-on way at home. Museum curators and collection managers also developed a new college-level museum studies curriculum and taught the first courses online at the UAF in the final academic year.

I am very proud of our curators, staff and students who made this work possible. What really sustained us is the deep commitment of our employees to preserve and share our Alaskan heritage. The support of our university and the trust of our sponsors are just as important. The pandemic is not over yet, but UAMN will continue to hold our shared history, conduct research and share knowledge through world-class exhibits and public relations.

Patrick Druckermiller is the director of the Museum of the North at the University of Alaska. For more information on the museum’s programs and events, see or call 474-7505.

Patrick Druckermiller is the director of the Museum of the North at the University of Alaska. For more information on the museum’s programs and events, see or call 474-7505.

Katz’s deli survived the 1918 pandemic. Now, it is navigating Covid

Katz’s Delicatessen in New York City has been around for more than a centuryand matures into an iconic institution on the Lower East Side.

Owner Jake Dell told CNBC on Friday he was feeling the weight of the family history as he tried to cope with the uncertainty and disruption created by the Coronavirus pandemic.

“This is technically our second pandemic for Katz. It’s my first,” Dell said “Squawk on the Street” in relation to 1918 flu pandemic. Katz’s, originally founded in 1888moved to its current location on Houston Street a year before this health crisis began.

For this pandemic that has devastated the restaurant industry, Dell said it uses a “make-it-up-as-you-go” approach.

“Make the best decision we can make right now without losing touch with the nostalgia and tradition that really lies at the heart of Katz,” said Dell, a fifth generation owner.

While the pandemic is not over yet, Dell said the lessons Katz has learned over the past 11 months will help the delicatessen business thrive in the decades to come, such as website development. Strategic decisions Katz made in the years leading up to the coronavirus crisis helped keep her afloat, too, he said.

Dell’s comments came as limited indoor dining in New York restaurants set for recovery after Governor Andrew Cuomo suspended it indefinitely in mid-December. Some health professionals have questioned the timingciting new coronavirus variants believed to be more communicable. But for many in the city’s gastronomy, the resumption of eating is indoors to be cheered on as a much needed way to increase revenue in bitter winter.

Katz’s will have about 17 or 18 tables available to meet the 25% capacity limit, Dell said. The deli will revert to the health protocols it used in the fall when the city allowed indoor eating, he said.

Dell acknowledged Katz’s lucky because the size of the dining room makes the capacity 25% more sustainable than smaller restaurants. From a business perspective, most restaurants find it difficult to get by with just a quarter of the tables available, Dell said.

Katz’s Delicatessen will remain open for takeaway during the coronavirus pandemic on May 7, 2020 in New York City.

Ben Gabbe | Getty Images

Digital presence

“One thing that we really focused on was our website and our focus on bringing the customer experience to your door, the real Katz experience. You can’t make it to the Lower East Side. How do we bring it to you ? ” said Dell, who came to the restaurant in 2009. His father Alan was involved before him.

Fortunately, Katz’s experience of shipping groceries to the United States dates back to World War II, when the slogan “Send your boy in the army a salami,” said Dell. But when the pandemic hit last spring and brought New York tourism to a standstill and indoor dining shut down, Katz’s really needed to expand its logistics operation.

That meant training some staff, like dishwashers, on how to properly package mustard, pickles and knives so that the groceries can be shipped across the country, Dell said. “And that has grown enormously and we really hope it will continue when everything is back to normal.”

Regarding local delivery, Dell said Katz built its own network a few years ago to avoid paying third-party vendors like “a monstrous” fee With the Dash and About Eats. “We just bit the bullet and built a giant [delivery] Factory a few years ago and it paid off, “said Dell.” We were lucky. We didn’t fire anyone during this pandemic, and I’m pretty grateful for that. “

Katz received a loan through the Paycheck Protection Program valued at $ 1 to 2 millionAccording to a database compiled by the nonprofit journalist website ProPublica. The loan was approved on May 3rd and has helped save 143 jobs, the database shows.

When asked why Dell struggled to keep Katz open in the depths of the pandemic, he said, “Because you have to. You lower your head and move forward. You make a choice at a time.”

“When the pandemic started, we immediately started distributing soups to … low-income and senior neighborhood buildings. We have, I believe, distributed about 30,000 meals to over 30 hospitals in all five counties. Line workers,” added Dell added, saying Katz felt obliged to help as a family-run company. “The community takes care of you. You have to take care of them when they are in need.”