Telfair Museums in downtown Savannah will be reopening its three sites—the Telfair Academy, the Owens-Thomas House & Slave Quarters, and the Jepson Center for the Arts— beginning Friday, June 26. The three museums closed to the public in mid March because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The museums, which share a single $20 admission fee, will be open 10am-5pm Thursdays-Mondays. During the initial reopening phase, they will be closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
“This is a major step toward restarting the cultural and tourism industry in Southeast Georgia,” said Bob Faircloth, Telfair’s acting director. “Our museums have a more than $9 million annual economic impact here in Savannah, we’re the city’s largest employer and provider of programming in the cultural arts sector, and we’re excited to get back to sharing the rich and important experience of art and history with Savannah residents and tourists.”
The museums have implemented a number of new health initiatives for visitors and staff, including social distancing, regular deep cleanings, hand sanitizer, plexiglass, face masks, and reduced-contact admissions procedures. In particular, the Owens-Thomas House & Slave Quarters, a National Historic Landmark, will have family-sized tour groups and a new audio component to help ensure the safety of guests on the 200-year-old property.
“Health and safety is our No. 1 priority, it’s why we closed early in March,” Faircloth said. “This museum has been around since 1886—the first U.S. museum founded by a woman and the oldest public art museum in the South. We’ve been through the 1918 flu pandemic and other big disruptions before, and we’ve always come out stronger. And I’m happy to say we’ve done it again.”
To celebrate the museums’ reopening and give back to the public, Telfair is offering a new Free Family Weekend from Friday, July 17-Sunday, July 19, with free admission to all Savannah and Chatham County residents in partnership with the City of Savannah.
“We’re excited to see the faces of our community again,” said Courtney McNeil, Telfair’s chief curator and deputy director for curatorial affairs. “Together, our staff has literally hundreds of years of experience presenting fun and moving programming for Savannahians and visitors, and to welcome them back into our buildings and galleries after this little pause just brings it all to life.”
The museum has extended a number of exhibitions impacted by the closure, including the major exhibition Collecting Impressionism: Telfair’s Modern Vision, which Mc- Neil curated and includes “some of the very finest paintings among our more than 7,000-piece permanent collection,” she said. Other exhibitions opening soon include Cut and Paste: Works of Paper, a unique presentation of work by Georgia artists including Savannah’s Betsy Cain, and Late Night Polaroids, a selection of photographs by Sulfur Studios owner Emily Earl. The popular Bird Girl statue, one of Savannah’s most recognizable icons, also will be back on view in the Telfair Academy.
“This brief closure has given us an opportunity to step back and evaluate everything we do—it’s actually been a positive,” Faircloth said. “I’m thankful for the strong partnership we have with the city, our donors, our members, and the public. I’m proud of the new innovations we’ve been able to make and the fantastic programs and exhibitions we have in store. We love and believe in Savannah, today and 100 years from now, too.”
Telfair Museums reopening highlights • Reopening date: Friday, June 26 • New hours: 10am-5pm Thursday-Sunday; closed Tuesday-Wednesday • Admission: $20 to visit all three sites; see telfair.org/ hours-admission for special pricing and safety information.
For more information visit telfair.org.