| The Tuscaloosa News
After closing for several months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Paul W. Bryant Museum, 300 Bryant Drive on the University of Alabama campus, directly across from Coleman Coliseum, will reopen at 9 a.m. Thursday.
Named for legendary Paul William “Bear” Bryant, longtime UA football coach and athletic director, the museum houses exhibits from decades of champions, archival materials about UA sports, and paraphernalia dating back to UA’s first gridiron team, in 1892, with films, uniforms, game balls and more on display. One much ooh-ed over centerpiece is a Waterford crystal replica of the Bear’s iconic houndstooth hat.
Like the rest of UA, the Bryant Museum shut down back in mid-March, during spring break.
“It seems like forever,” said Ken Gaddy, director of the museum.
Since staff got the go-ahead last week, they’ve been cleaning and triple cleaning, he said, and putting signage up on floors to indicate proper distancing. All patrons will be expected to wear masks at all times, and purchase timed tickets, in advance.
“We’ll let in 30 people every 30 minutes, so a total of 60 people in the exhibit hall, at a time,” Gaddy said.
For the touchscreen wall, the museum has purchased stylus pens to loan out to groups, to help cut back on physical contact. In the radio booth, phones have been taken out, and the museum continues to use domes to direct sound in displays.
Other than that, the museum’s physically much the same. The biggest visual change will be in the numbers. At new capacity, the Bryant can admit fewer than 400 people per day.
“The first A-Day for (Nick) Saban (the head football coach arrived in 2007), we had 5,000 visitors in a day,” Gaddy said. “Fifteen hundred is a slow game day for us.
“We need people to be diligent purchasing tickets online, so we don’t have to turn people away at the door.”
Most standard displays remain the same, though there is one old-new exhibit, on sports and tobacco, how athletes were once used to sell cigarettes. It was supposed to be up in time for the spring A-Day, which obviously didn’t happen.
“Even though it’s old, it’s new, because nobody got to see it,” Gaddy said.
Gone for 2020 is the namesake event, where people named for the coach — Paul, William, Bear, Bryant or some combination — gather at the museum before the first home game.
“We can’t do it, we decided,” Gaddy said. “Too many people, too tight. And we won’t have book authors’ signing, or honorary captains….
“Hopefully, a year from now, we’ll be back to something like normal.”
For the near future, the Bryant Museum will be open 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays. Timed tickets will be required, in order to maintain building capacity limits, and to help with social distancing.
“We have to look out for each, for this to work,” Gaddy said.
Tickets should be purchased in advance. They can be found at www.ua.universitytickets.com. The price for adults is $2; ages 6-17, and seniors 60 and up, $1. Children under 6, active alumni (ID required) and UA faculty, staff and students are admitted free.
To schedule group tours, call 866-772-BEAR (2327), or (205) 348-4668, or send email to [email protected] For more, see www.bryantmuseum.com.