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Staff file photo by Robin Rudd / The Hunter Museum of American Art reopens Thursday with new coronavirus safety guidelines.

The Hunter Museum of American Art will end its four-month coronavirus hiatus with new hours and limited capacity Thursday.

Museum officials said members will be allowed to visit for free with no reservations required. Other guests must purchase date-specific tickets online.

The Hunter is one of the last tourist institutions to re-emerge under new pandemic guidelines. Attractions such as Rock City, Ruby Falls, Chattanooga Zoo and Tennessee Aquarium reopened in May and June.

"We really, really wanted to make sure all the protocols and issues were covered to create as safe an experience as possible for guests," said Cara McGowan, director of marketing and communications.

Part of the delay can be attributed to an active virtual presence, she said.

"We never really felt like we went away. We just shifted to online resources," said McGowan, noting that gallery talks, art demonstrations and other offerings have continued online even though physical participation was not possible.

"We've had resources for families with school-age children, for people who had to quarantine and were looking for some kind of creative outlet. We partnered with Hamilton County Schools on one of their summer learning modules."

Many of those Facebook Live experiences will continue, McGowan said.

For now, capacity inside the museum will be limited to 20%. Masks that cover the mouth and nose are required of all staff and visitors over age 5.

Physical distancing also will be required, including in elevators, which will be limited to one guest or guest group at a time. Hand sanitizer stations will be available throughout the museum, and frequently touched surfaces will be cleaned with increased frequency.

The goal is to make all experiences inside the museum as touch-free as possible. Map and exhibition guides are posted at HunterMuseum.org/mobile for guests to consult in advance or via cellphone while visiting. The museum has free Wi-Fi access, with no password needed.

McGowan said Dr. Mark Anderson, an infectious-disease specialist in Chattanooga, was asked to do a walk-through to point out any potential risk areas.

"We wanted to make sure we were thinking of everything," she said. "We can guide [a guest] through a gallery and teach all about a work of art and the background behind it and the creative process that went into it, but we're not doctors. It was very reassuring to have him come in and make sure all the protocols were in place."

New hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday, Friday and Saturday; 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Thursday; and noon-5 p.m. Sunday (closed Tuesday and Wednesday).

For more information, visit www.huntermuseum.org.

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