Cindy Daffron (copy)

ABOVE: In this file photo, Cindy Daffron, Pony Express Museum executive director, points to the start of the Pony Express route in St. Joseph. A virtual tour of the museum is now available at ponyexpress.com/mobile-tour.

While many local museums are open to the public, staff know some don’t feel comfortable getting out during the COVID-19 pandemic. In response, a few facilities have gotten creative with virtual events.

The Albrecht-Kemper Museum of Art has been offering an array of virtual programs, including offering a Zoom option for in-person classes, moving opening receptions and award ceremonies to Facebook Live and building an archive of artist talks and past events on its YouTube channel.

Jill Carlson, marketing and communications manager at the Albrecht-Kemper, said museum staff are doing everything they can to keep visitors engaged.

“We are completely open, but we have obviously put some things in place so that we have less contact, and it’s just a lot safer of an environment,” Carlson said.

The St. Joseph Museums also have hosted virtual events and are beginning to ease back into in-person events. Kristina Nicholson, who works in communications and graphic design at the St. Joseph Museums, said they’ve seen tourist numbers slowly begin to rise in recent months.

Like many places, local museums were put in a hard spot financially after shutting down because of the pandemic. Nicholson said all of the St. Joseph Museums’ fundraisers were cancelled and community members can support them with a simple donation or buying a membership.

“We want to keep the history alive in St. Joe, and the more support that we have from the community, the more support that we can give back,” Nicholson said.

Tuesday Night Talks is an event that has been held by the Pony Express Museum for years, but due to COVID-19, the in-person event wasn’t possible this winter. Executive Director Cindy Daffron said that’s when the museum decided to post recordings of previous talks on their website.

“We started in about 2014 recording the different speakers,” Daffron said. “So what did we do? We pulled them out of a file and said, ‘Hey, let’s look at the classics, the ones that people really liked, and let’s bring them back and run them as reruns.’”

The talks last around half an hour and are available to view on their website until April 1. Along with virtual talks, Daffron said the museum now has a virtual tour, as well.

“It’s an hour long, broken into four segments,” Daffron said. “So if you’ve never been to the Pony Express and you wonder what it’s like, you can go look at that and then come here for real and see it yourself.”

All museums are following COVID-19 protocols and have taken down interactive exhibits to keep their guests safe. Carlson encourages those who feel comfortable to show their support for the Albrecht-Kemper Museum of Art by visiting the museum.

“We have a lot of space to spread out, and if you’re tired of looking at your own four walls, come and look at our four walls — our zillions of walls that are here,” Carlson said. “Come and discover something new.”

More information about local museums, their COVID-19 policies and events can be found on their websites at ponyexpress.org, albrecht-kemper.org and stjosephmuseum.org.

Morgan Riddell can be reached at morgan.doyle@newspressnow.com