Museums Worldwide Prepare to Reopen Their Doors After Lockdown

The China Art Museum in Shanghai (lucia wang/Flickr)

While major museums in the United States remain shut down, other museums around the world have either reopened or announced plans to resume their activities under new safety guidelines, providing a glimpse into what the “new normal” of the museum experience might look like post-lockdown.

Last week, several museums in the state of Brandenburg in Germany opened their doors to the public under instructions to comply with social distancing and containment measures. According to the Art Newspaper, the Brandenburg Museum Association has issued guidelines for reopening which include installing plexiglass shields for ticket counters; accepting only credit cards instead of cash payments; supplying all staff with disinfectant materials; frequent cleaning of the space; and a limit of one visitor per 161-square-foot area. Tours will not be allowed and audio guides should be offered only if they can be disinfected after each use. The German Museums Association followed with recommendations to allot special time-slots for visitors from high-risk groups, extend opening hours, and provide masks on request for visitors.

Other German states announced that they will reopen museums in the short term, according to reporting by the Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper. Museums in Thuringia will reopen on April 28 while others in Berlin, Saxony, and Dresden plan to gradually reopen on May 4.

Austria will begin to allow museums and other cultural institutions to reopen starting from mid-May, according to a statement by Vice-Chancellor Werner Kogler. However, major museums in Vienna like Kunsthistorisches Museum and the Belvedere, home to Gustav Klimt’s “The Kiss,” have postponed their reopening date to July 1. Austria’s neighboring country, Switzerland, has set June 8 as the date to reopen museums and libraries.

Austrian Gallery Belvedere in Vienna (a.canvas.of.light/Flickr)

In Belgium, several museums have announced scheduled reopening on May 19. These institutions include the Royal Museums of Fine Arts, which comprises six museums in Brussels, and the Museum van Hedendaagse Kunst (MHKA) in Antwerp. “We, at the MHKA, are ready to serve as a test room for that post-lock down experience,” said MHKA’s director, Bart De Baere, in a statement. The museums will adhere to social distancing guidelines issued by the country’s National Security Council.

Italy, the country that has the highest number of COVID-19 victims in Europe, is planning to reopen museums and libraries on May 19. Italy’s prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, made the announcement in a TV interview on Sunday, stressing that social distancing measures must be maintained in the months to come. “If we do not respect the precautions the curve will go up, the deaths will increase, and we will have irreversible damage to our economy,” he said. “If you love Italy, keep your distance.”

In Hong Kong, museums that reopened in March amid encouraging signs that the disease had been contained were forced to close again as a second wave of infections hit the region.

Meanwhile, 180 museums across China have been taking bookings and allowing visitors under new restrictions since March 15. The number of visitors is limited to 2,000 people inside the Shanghai Museum and up to 5,000 at the China Art Museum. Masks are mandatory and visitors are required to book tickets in advance through a QR code program online. Guided tours are limited to digital and audio tours.

In South Korea, the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Seoul has rescinded previous plans to reopen on March 23. It remains closed until further notice together with other museums in the country, like the Seoul Museum of Art and the Leeum Samsung Museum of Art. South Korea is the Asian country hit hardest by the pandemic outside China.

In Japan, earlier plans to reopen Tokyo’s Museum of Contemporary Art and Kyoto’s Kyocera Museum of Art in mid-March or at the beginning of April have been postponed till May 6. This date remains subject to change, according to both museums.

In the US, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York said it expects to reopen on July 1 while the Perez Art Museum announced September 1 as a potential reopening date. Responding to Hyperallergic’s inquiry, the Whitney Museum, the New Museum, the Queens Museum, and the Museum of Natural History in New York said that they have not yet set a date for reopening.