Starting July 8, Museum at the Portage will reopen its doors to once again share the city’s history with visitors, but only by appointment and visitors will be required to wear a face covering.
Vicki Vogts, president of the Portage Historical Society that maintains the museum on MacFarlane Road, said people will need to call 608-742-6682 at least a day before visiting to allow docents to sanitize any touched surfaces between appointments.
“It will be nice that we can have people, because we wanted to reopen,” Vogts said Monday. “We hate being closed, that’s for sure.”
The museum is implementing new cleaning procedures, social distancing and mask requirements when it reopens next week in light of the coronavirus pandemic. Originally slated to open April 1 for the season, the museum remained closed due to the state’s stay-at-home order.
“We really would love it if people wanted to start coming to see us, but with COVID, we don’t know. We don’t know if people are going to want to come or not,” Vogts said.
Hand sanitizer also will be available for visitors, who will be limited to 10 at a time in the building, five on each floor.
The museum is free to enter, but welcomes donations. Vogts and Dave Eulberg, Portage Historical Society treasurer, said donations are down “significantly” this year because of the closure. Of the organization’s total $22,000 in annual revenues, donations account for about $5,000, while $7,000 comes as a stipend from the city and the rest is from membership dues, Eulberg said.
While expenses are also lower this year, he noted that there are some costs that remain such as maintaining the historic building. Memberships are down, too. He didn’t have specific numbers on this year’s donations Monday afternoon.
“We still have to spend some money on things that we do, so we’re always looking for donations,” Eulberg said.
To correspond with other local historic sites, Museum at the Portage will be open Wednesdays through Sundays this summer, a change from last year, Vogts said. That allows those visiting the Indian Agency House or the Fort Winnebago Surgeons Quarters to add the museum to their day trip while in the area.
She’s hoping the Wisconsin Historical Society’s most recent magazine, featuring an article and cover art on Portage author and playwright Zona Gale, will spark interest in the museum housed in Gale’s historic home.
The article was written by the museum’s 2019 University of Wisconsin-Madison summer intern, Matthew Noojin.
“We were very happy to see that come out,” Vogts said.
Vogts noted the historical society also hopes to hold the annual Friendship Village event celebrating Gale on Aug. 15, though it may require reservations, depending on the status of COVID-19’s spread.
Docent Sarah Mautz said she’s ready to start seeing people at the museum again.
“It is nice when people come in and we can share what’s here,” Mautz said, adding, “but it’s nice being in here and working, catching up on things when people aren’t here.”
Follow Susan Endres on Twitter @EndresSusan or call her at 745-3506.
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