Publication - Advice and guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance for museums, galleries and heritage attractions

Good practice guidelines for museums, galleries and heritage attractions

Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance for museums, galleries and heritage attractions


This guidance is for museums, galleries and heritage attractions.

Museums, galleries and heritage attractions in Scotland should check whether they are permitted to open under the Coronavirus (COVID-19): Scotland's Strategic Framework update - June 2021All Scottish Government updates and guidance are available here.

We are keen to build confidence and create the right environment for supporting safer work as we continue to live with COVID-19.

We have worked with organisations and trade unions from across the sector to ensure that this guidance is evidence-based, fair and ethical, clear and realistic. We welcome the extensive work that organisations have already done to plan ahead for safe workplaces and visitor attractions through practical measures and draft guidelines aimed at ensuring the safety of staff, volunteers, freelance workers, and the public is at the centre of operational plans for re-opening of the sector. As each workplace is different it is for individual organisations to work with trade union or workforce representatives to determine how best to apply this guidance in their circumstances. We have provided a checklist to make this simple and straightforward.

To help you decide which actions to take, you need to carry out an appropriate COVID-19 risk assessment, just as you would for other health and safety related hazards. The checklist should provide you with a good starting place. This risk assessment should be undertaken in consultation with trade unions, employee representatives or employees and volunteers. The key areas which you need to consider are outlined in each of the sections.

As restrictions are eased, the emphasis will continue to be on personal responsibility, good practice and informed judgement. The latest  information on Coronavirus in Scotland can be accessed via our Coronavirus in Scotland page.

This guide is underpinned by a spirit of collaborative working between organisations and their workforce (including staff and volunteers). Throughout this document reference will be made to organisations consulting with their workforce. To avoid repetition, it is assumed that organisations will include in this consultation trade unions or workforce representatives, as appropriate to the workforce.

This document is one of a set of documents about how to work safely in different types of workplace. This guidance is for use by museums, galleries and heritage attractions in Scotland. This guidance covers both heritage properties, and museum and gallery collections, including permanent and temporary exhibitions. Collections and exhibitions may or may not be housed in historic buildings, historic properties may or may not contain collections or exhibitions. Heritage attractions include castles, historic houses, historic gardens and designed landscapes, industrial heritage monuments and open air sites including mobile heritage. It does not include specific advice for occupiers of historic buildings that are solely private residences. It sets out our expectations on what organisations of all sizes and sub-sectors need to consider as part of their planning for restart. The guidance emphasises in particular the importance of undertaking a robust and ongoing risk-based assessment with full input from trade union or workforce representatives, and to keep all risk mitigation measures under regular review so that workplaces continue to feel, and be, safe.

Fair work

As Scotland continues to ease lockdown restrictions, organisations including the Institute of Directors (IoD), SCDI, STUC, COSLA and SCVO have signed a fair work statement underlining the collaborative approach needed between employers, unions and workers to ensure workplaces can operate safely.

This guidance is based on the principles set out in COVID-19: A Framework for Decision-Making and our long-established commitment to fair work, which was set in the context of the current crisis in a joint statement with the STUC (which we have taken into account when developing this guidance).


The remainder of this guidance sets out our minimum expectations across key areas organisations will need to consider as part of their planning for a restart and ongoing production while minimising the transmission of the virus:

Public bodies should also refer to the key principles for employers to address when considering recovery from lockdown which have been negotiated with the civil service unions and which was sent to all public body chief executives on 3 June 2020.

The regulator for health and safety at work is the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) who will utilise the powers under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 to ensure enforcement of this legislation is undertaken by Environmental Health and Trading Standards local authority staff in agreement with Police Scotland.

HMRC has produced revised guidance for historic houses or gardens with conditional exemption status.

Historic Environment Scotland has made available the standards they are using for the resumption of operations at their Properties in Care at this time. These will be updated with case studies and lessons learned as their operations resume.    

The guidance has been published now to give employers and employees the time they need to plan and prepare.

Separate guidance has also been published for tourism and hospitality; transport and retail sectorPlease refer to this for related business interests.

This guidance was developed alongside and influenced by advice produced for England by the National Museums Directors Council and endorsed by DCMS, and guidance for heritage locations

This is provided as guidance only and does not amount to legal advice. Organisations may wish to seek their own advice to ensure compliance with all legal requirements.  

If you can suggest ways we can improve the guidance please email

First published: 6 Jul 2020 Last updated: 23 Dec 2021 -