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Working with the public during a bushfire crisis and pandemic

Jamie, a Visitor Experience Host at the National Museum of Australia, reflects on 2020 and how her work was impacted by the 2019-2020 Bushfires and COVID-19 pandemic

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Hi, I’m Jamie, a visitor experience host at the National Museum of Australia. And I’ve been a front of house staff member during the 2019 and 2020 bushfire season and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Has been a pretty rough year to work in the front of house, with many challenges thrown at us. First of all, the bushfires. Canberra got hit pretty hard with the smoke, as did most of the country. And there were some days where the Museum, particularly visitor areas like the atrium and galleries, filled up with smoke. It was becoming quite common for me to come home smelling of smoke, and also wondering if we would be open the next day, if it was too smoky inside the building. So, we used to receive a text every morning to see whether the Museum was open, if we would be coming into work. And that’s how we woke up for a few weeks there.

But that passed and we thought we were getting through it. And then we were thrown into a pandemic, which was even more challenging in some ways. I wasn’t feeling very secure about my job at that time. ‘Cause if the Museum is not open you don’t really need front of house staff members, but the Museum was really great and through it tried really hard to keep all of us in a job. And we continued working during the lockdown from March to June, and I was with a really supportive team who helped me with a few projects that we did to try and reach the public during the lockdown.

So we did a few things like a Twitter takeover, where myself and another colleague took over the Twitter for a day and wrote our few tweets about our different features of the Museum. And a few colleagues of mine also did a Live at the Museum. So, a video program on YouTube. And then we opened up, which brought with it a whole new challenges, because we had to remember to social distance. We had to remember to put hand sanitiser on, and we also had to remind all of our visitors to do that as well. And also kept up with all the COVID hotspots, and registering visits.

So, it’s been a really difficult period for the host team, but we have a really supportive team behind us who’s done really great work to keep us all going, and hopefully we will get out of this soon.

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