PITTSFIELD — After weeks of virtual visits with Hancock Shaker Village's newborns, the public finally will have a chance to visit with the baby animals — calves, lambs, goats and its newest arrivals, piglets — in person.
The living history museum will have a limited opening today, with visitors confined to its outdoor spaces.
The popular Baby Animals exhibit, originally scheduled to open in the Round Stone Barn on April 11, will take place in newly constructed outdoor pens and fenced-in areas. The village will be open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays, through at least the end of June. The village plans a full reopening as part of phase three of the Baker administration's four-phase COVID-19 reopening framework for the state.
Visitors will not be able to touch the animals, get into the pens or go inside the Round Stone Barn, but they will have the opportunity to visit with baby goats, sheep and calves up close, as well as donkeys, cows and Veruca the 1,400-pound pig. They also will get a peek at 10 piglets, born Tuesday, through a window of the Dairy Ell.
As part of the controlled reopening of Hancock Shaker Village, several safety measure have been put in place to ensure the health and safety of guests, staff and the animals.
"We're asking everyone to stay 10 feet apart, as opposed to 6 feet. Ten feet is a mature cow's length," Director Jennifer Trainer Thompson said Wednesday, during a press preview of the safety measures.
All ticketing will take place outside, and all visitors will be required to prepurchase timed admission tickets either at hancockshakervillage.org or by calling 413-443-0188. Members always are free, but they must reserve a time slot ahead of time.
"We know people have been eager to visit the farm when it is safe to do so," Trainer Thompson said in a statement before Wednesday's event. "Self-guided discovery has always been important to the museum experience here, and with baby animals, the trails, the architecture, and the gorgeous gardens, we'll offer what has always been a hallmark of the Village: an inspiring, holistic experience."
Admission times are spaced 15 minutes apart, but visitors can stay on the grounds as long as they like. It's expected that there will be 100 to 150 guests on-site at one time. Staff members will be monitoring the number of people on-site by tracking the number of people entering and exiting the village.
Visitors will travel on a one-way route through the museum's outdoor areas and barnyard. The route is well-marked with directional signage as well as indicators for where visitors can stop to enjoy the animals. Additionally, visitors will be given the option of taking a walk on the mile-long Farm and Forest Trail.
Other health and safety measures put in place as part of the reopening include required face masks/covering for all guests and staff (those who cannot wear masks are asked to wait until the phase three opening to visit), guest capacity limits, clearly designated distance markers, enhanced cleaning protocols, more hand sanitizer stations and COVID-19 training for all staff.
No indoor or outdoor seating will be provided, and bathroom facilities will be extremely limited to a single "emergency-only" station at the visitors center. No food or water is being sold on-site.
The historic barn and all buildings will remain closed until phase three begins. Museum officials are hopeful they will be able to open some, if not all, of the buildings during the first full week of July, but they await guidance from the state.
In the meantime, visitors will be provided with maps and information about the historic buildings and heirloom gardens. Guests also will be able to go "window shopping." Items from the gift shop are displayed in the Brick Poultry House windows and can be ordered by number for curbside pickup.
Hancock Shaker Village, forced to delay its opening due to the coronavirus pandemic, has been offering virtual programming, including virtual talks with authors and Shaker collectors, Facebook Live streams from the farm and Zoom with Baby Animals sessions. It also has made the decision to plant its 5-acre vegetable garden, which supports a 65-member Community Supported Agriculture and provides 15 percent of its crops to local families in need.
Admission is free for members and children ages 12 and younger; $20 for adults; and $8 for youths ages 13 to 18. A complete list of new safety measures is available at hancockshakervillage.org.