Irish Museums Covid-19 information point

22 Mar 2020

Latest updates from the Irish Government


Latest updates from the NI Executive


Planning for reopening of museums


  • HSE - Minding your mental health

    Thank you to National Museums Northern Ireland for drawing our attention to this information from the HSE on minding your mental health during the coronavirus outbreak. 

    Infectious disease outbreaks like coronavirus (COVID-19), can be worrying. This can affect your mental health. But there are many things you can do to mind your mental health during times like this.

    How your mental health might be affected

    The spread of coronavirus is a new and challenging event. Some people might find it more worrying than others. Try to remember that medical, scientific and public health experts are working hard to contain the virus.

    Most people’s lives will change in some way over a period of days, weeks or months. But in time, it will pass.

    You may notice some of the following:

    • increased anxiety
    • feeling stressed
    • finding yourself excessively checking for symptoms, in yourself, or others
    • becoming irritable more easily
    • feeling insecure or unsettled
    • fearing that normal aches and pains might be the virus
    • having trouble sleeping
    • feeling helpless or a lack of control
    • having irrational thoughts
    • If you are taking any prescription medications, make sure you have enough.


    How to mind your mental health during this time

    • Keeping a realistic perspective of the situation based on facts is important. Here are some ways you can do this.
    • Stay informed but set limits for news and social media
    • The constant stream of social media updates and news reports about coronavirus could cause you to feel worried. Sometimes it can be difficult to separate facts from rumours. Use trustworthy and reliable sources to get your news.
    • Read up-to-date, factual information on coronavirus in Ireland here.
    • On social media, people may talk about their own worries or beliefs. You don’t need to make them your own. Too much time on social media may increase your worry and levels of anxiety. Consider limiting how much time you spend on social media.
    • If you find the coverage on coronavirus is too intense for you, talk it through with someone close or get support.


    Keep up your healthy routines

    Your routine may be affected by the coronavirus outbreak in different ways. But during difficult times like this, it’s best if you can keep some structure in your day.

    It’s important to pay attention to your needs and feelings, especially during times of stress. You may still be able to do some of the things you enjoy and find relaxing

    For example, you could try to:


    During times of stress, friends and families can be a good source of support. It is important to keep in touch with them and other people in your life.

    If you need to restrict your movements or self-isolate, try to stay connected to people in other ways, for example:

    • e-mail
    • social media
    • video calls
    • phone calls
    • text messages
    • Many video calling apps allow you to have video calls with multiple people at the same time.
    • Remember that talking things through with someone can help lessen worry or anxiety. You don't have to appear to be strong or to try to cope with things by yourself.
    • Talking to children and young people
    • Involving your children in your plans to manage this situation is important. Try to consider how they might be feeling.
    • Give children and young people the time and space to talk about the outbreak. Share the facts with them in a way that suits their age and temperament, without causing alarm.
    • Talk to your children about coronavirus but try to limit their exposure to news and social media. This is especially important for older children who may be spending more time online now. It may be causing anxiety.
    • Try to anticipate distress and support each other
    • It is understandable to feel vulnerable or overwhelmed reading or hearing news about the outbreak.
    • Acknowledge these feelings. Remind yourself and others to look after your physical and mental health. If you smoke or drink, try to avoid doing this any more than usual. It won’t help in the long-term.


    Don’t make assumptions

    Don’t judge people or make assumptions about who is responsible for the spread of the disease. The coronavirus can affect anyone regardless of age, gender, nationality or ethnicity. We are all in this together.


    Online and phone supports

    Face-to-face services are limited at the moment. But some services are providing online and phone services.

    There are also many dedicated online services that can help.

    Use our mental health services finder to find support. Check all the services websites to see what online and phone supports are available.


    OCD and coronavirus

    If you have OCD, you may develop an intense fear of:

    • catching coronavirus
    • causing harm to others
    • things not being in order
    • Fear of being infected by the virus may mean you become obsessed with:
    • hand hygiene
    • cleanliness
    • avoiding certain situations, such as using public transport
    • Washing your hands


    The compulsion to wash your hands or clean may get stronger. If you have recovered from this type of compulsion in the past, it may return.

    Follow the advice to wash your hands properly and often, but you do not need to do more than recommended.

    Things you can do to help:


    Read more about obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) symptoms, treatment and getting help.

  • Supporting staff and colleagues

    Thank you to Mark Wilkinson, Head of HROD at National Museums NI for preparing and sharing this document following the IMA members' session on supporting staff and colleagues held on 15 April 2020. 

    Supporting Staff – 15.04.20

    Supporting Staff - Day to day / Practical issues



    • Provide information relating to their jobs e.g. pay, annual leave, probation periods, temporary contracts.



    • Respond to questions and queries from colleagues.
    • Acknowledge questions even if you aren’t able to answer (fast evolving situation and conflicting guidance).


    Employee contact              

    • Two way street. Employees should be reminded of the need for them to stay in touch e.g. sickness, leave requests, updated contact details.


    Organisation updates

    • Keep colleagues informed of what is going on in their organisation.
    • What do they need to know about the organisation.
    • Create some sense of normality and that there will be something to return to.


    Duty of Care        

    • Provide guidance on working from home (setting up a workspace, ergonomics, IT equipment.
    • Consider employee wellbeing (check-ins from line managers, be vigilant for signs of anxiety, encourage them to take some leave).
    • Remind them of your Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) e.g. counselling.


    Responsible employer

    • Reflect and repeat the government advice.
    • Sign post other guidance e.g. mental health & wellbeing, other support services.


    Supporting Staff – Sense of Connectedness


    Keep in regular contact

    • Variety of methods. More and less formal.
    • Corporate, Collegiate and Personal.


    Encourage contact from line managers and within teams.

    Example of weekly email from CEO (1. Situation Update 2. What’s going on in the organisation 3. A story from the Collections 4. Living through lockdown 5. Q&A)

    Other ad hoc all staff messages e.g. health, safety and wellbeing advice.


    Use of different technology:

    • All staff emails (see above)
    • WhatsApp groups – less formal (keeping in touch, quizzes and puzzles, box set recommendations)
    • Phone calls
    • Importance of visibility and face to face meetings (MS Teams, Skype, FaceTime).


    See and be seen.

    • 7% of communication – Words
    • 35% of communication – Tone
    • 58% of communication – Body Language


    Supporting Staff – Sense of Community

    Your organisation as a community

    • Updates from the sites / locations – what is going on across the organisation e.g. feeding the animals
    • at our open air museums.
    • Updates from staff – what are they working on individually or within teams.
    • Support and advice provide by colleague e.g. tips on meditation or breathing exercises.
    • Don’t forget your volunteers – keep them connected and an opportunity to highlight their contribution and commitment to your organisation and purpose.


    Your organisation within the wider community

    • What are we doing to help
    • Donation of PPE from conservation teams
    • Donation of stock from sweet shops to NHS
    • Donation of some ICT equipment


    Try to include an element of fun / positivity

    Need to get tone right. Colleagues may be anxious or personally impacted by the situation (ill health in family).


    Supporting Staff Professionally

    • Business as usual
    • Set objectives
    • Have a weekly update in progress (just as you would in work)
    • Regular check-ins with line manager


    Performance management

    • Follow normal performance management processes
    • Opportunity for more time to be spent on it
    • Objective setting may take into account lockdown and postlockdown
    • Discuss learning & development needs


    Personal development

    • Complete and e-learning course the organisation has
    • Other on-line learning
    • Research
    • Ted Talks


    Opportunities for mentoring or knowledge sharing within or between organisations.


    Being Productive and Avoiding Burnout


    • Importance of messaging and tone from senior staff and line managers.
    • We have organisations to run and things to do, but pace is important.
    • Work life balance has shifted and priorities have changed.
    • Messaging from our CEO – be kind to one another, look out for one another.


    Be realistic

    • Agree objectives and work plans.
    • Work is continuing and the contribution of colleagues is important.
    • Balance with what is realistic and reasonable.
    • Caring responsibilities, illness in family, anxiety


    Work as normal

    Try to replicate a normal pattern – Rise / Work / Rest / Sleep

    Keep a normal work routine:

    • To do lists
    • Take breaks in day
    • Create a workspace
    • Pack away at end of day / week
    • Turn off the technology when not working
  • Collecting Covid-19

    As museums seek to document the extraordinary circumstances we are living through due to the Covid-19 crisis, collecting the present for the future, it is important that rapid response collecting be approached in a respectful and considerate way.

    Click here for the MA UK statement on collecting around Covid-19 to access their Code of Ethics.

    Click here for the NMI Contemporary Collecting Strategy (16 April 2020). 

IMA Support Initiatives

Culture plays a vital role in connecting people and museums across the island have responded in an admirable way throughout this pandemic, continuing to offer programming that highlights their valuable roles in informal education, health and well-being, and social connectivity. At the IMA, we have been revising our own activity and advocacy priorities to support these efforts. 

Read about some of our initiatives in the links below.

Museums and the Road to a Resilient Recovery in Ireland


Report on school-museum engagement during and post Covid-19


Interactive map: Reopening of museums


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