April 24, 2020 / News & Blog

How Museums Are Helping Keep Essential Workers Safe

This post was produced in collaboration with the Association of Science and Technology Centers.

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:

Arizona Science Center (Phoenix) is part of a local effort to use 3D printers to produce face shields for medical workers at Banner Health.

DISCOVERY Children’s Museum (Las Vegas, NV) 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 Field Museum (Chicago, IL) is using their three 3D printers to make National Institutes of Health-approved face shields for Meals on Wheels volunteers and Northwestern Hospital. The museum is also donating unopened lab supplies to health organizations in need.

The Idaho Museum of Natural History (Pocatello) is working with Idaho State University to 3D print three different medical products: the “Montana Mask,” face straps, and face shields.

LaunchPAD Children’s Museum (Sioux City, IA) 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, CA) 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 Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI) (Tampa, FL) responded to a call from the Moffitt Cancer Center seeking masks and has been using their 3D printers to make face shields for frontline staff.

Science North (Ontario, Canada) set up 3D printers in a staff member’s home, so they can work around the clock to make face masks for their local hospital.

The Science Spectrum and Omni Theater (Lubbock, TX) 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.

The Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago (IL) is using twenty of their 3D printers to make face shields and masks for local hospitals. As of April 15, they had created 250 frames and 40 masks!

Western Science Center (Hemet, CA) is 3D printing face mask clips for their local hospital. The museum’s four 3D printers can print thirteen clips at a time, with each set taking five hours to complete.

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

Arizona Science Center (Phoenix) shared tips for how those at home can make face masks for personal use.

The Children’s Museum of the Arts (New York, NY) posted a blog sharing instructions on how to create personal fabric face masks using simple sewing skills.

KidZone Museum (Truckee, CA) 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, our 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.

Image by MOXI The Wolf Museum of Exploration + Innovation.