With local healthcare workers facing a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE), the Maxwell Museum of Anthropology, UNM Art Museum, and Museum of Southwest Biology recently donated their supply of gloves and N-95 masks to UNM Hospital. 

“We worked with the Office of the Vice President for Research to coordinate our donation,” explained Carla M. Sinopoli, Maxwell Museum director and professor of Anthropology. The total donation was more than 2,000 pairs of gloves and over 100 N-95 masks, which reduce wearer exposure to small bodily aerosol particles as well as large droplets that could carry the COVID-19 virus.

“We wear gloves when we handle delicate artifacts in the collections, both to protect them from oils on our skin, and also in case they had any chemical treatment in the past that might harm people handling them,” Sinopoli said, adding that the masks are used by the Maxwell exhibit preparator when he is painting or preparing mounts for objects in an exhibition.

Arif Khan, director of the UNM Art Museum, said his staff uses nitrile gloves for handling artworks during installation and de-installation of exhibitions because they provide a better grip than the traditional white cloth gloves while still protecting the artworks from whatever is on someone’s hands. The staff will use cloth art handling gloves, until they can re-stock, when the museum reopens.

“Now is a time for all of us to come together to help our front line medical personnel. We at the UNM Art Museum are proud to join our fellow campus museums in making this small donation to get our gloves into the right hands,” Khan said.

Sinopoli reminded online museum visitors that the Maxwell website features a virtual exhibition called COVID-19: Conceptions of Sickness and Wellness, which takes a broad anthropological and historical look at sickness and wellness across New Mexico and beyond, and asks visitors to contribute their stories and experiences of living through this unique period of a global pandemic. She also recommended people can follow Maxwell on its Facebook page.

The UNM Art Museum website features information about exhibitions and contributing artists, as well as photos of much of the work. Khan said his team is also actively posting on their Facebook and Instagram platforms to stay engaged with their audiences. The Museum of Southwest Biology is closed for now. However, staff and faculty at the museums are working behind the scenes while maintaining physical distancing practices.