02 Jun 2020 | Covid-19, Galleries, Museums, Planning, Re-Opening, Resources
While there are still a number of weeks before cultural spaces can expect to reopen meaningfully, many UK and Irish galleries and museums are already planning what the new visitor experience will look like.
Throughout the health crisis and lockdown, museum and gallery spaces got inventive about how to bring art to audiences. Now, as the UK and Ireland begin to see an ease in restrictions, museums are getting their heads around reopening planning and rules for visitors.
For all arts and cultural institutions the primary concern during the lockdown was the safety and care of collections during closure as well as getting creative in terms of the visitor experience.
Now as easement measures are coming in July and August, the primary concern has to be ensuring the safety of staff and visitors, and protecting smaller museums to ensure they weather these extended closures.
Looking at countries like Germany where some museums have cautiously re-opened, we can start to see what the new normal might look like.
Interestingly, the German state governments outlined a few specific guidelines for increased hygiene stations and social distancing measures, but the details have been left to individual institutions to work out and implement.
What Model Have They Used in Germany?
Only a few museums in Germany have reopened, but it is a good place to start in terms of looking at how they have planned for reopening. At the moment there is no consistency across institutions. For example, some museums have instituted a one-way system, while others have not. Some have made face masks mandatory, while others have made it optional. But here is what we have seen many museums put in place thus far:
Social distancing is mandatory for museum visitors
Face masks are compulsory (though some museums have made them optional)
Increase hand sanitiser stations throughout galleries
One way museum routes to keep flow of visitors moving
Timed ticketing entry to minimise crowds
No offers of audio guides though some museums have allowed visitors to bring their own headphones.
Increase cleaning of surfaces in museums
Many museums in Germany are putting in place a few measures and then using a “wait and see approach.” Much will need to be adjusted and guided by how the public itself responds and moves through gallery spaces.
What is heartening in Germany is that museum visitors have come back and though there are reduced numbers, people are following the guidelines and are definitely happy to be back.
Will Shank, who was head of conservation at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art for a decade and now works independently in collections care from his home in Barcelona and collaborates frequently with the Keith Haring Foundation noted,
“From my point of view, the sooner we can welcome visitors the better, as long as cautious rules for safeguarding people's health are put in place. We have all seen how important it has been to have the arts to turn to while we've been isolated, as sources of inspiration and creativity. On-line concerts and theater have filled people's souls while we have been denied the pleasure of attending them in person. And re-creating old masters from everyday objects has been a source of joy for thousands. Soon we will all be able to enjoy the authentic experiences again that bring us back in touch with the much-needed creativity of others.”
Artforum has an excellent summary of reopening stories from across the globe.
CIMAM has created a set of guidelines for museums as they look at reopening planning.
ICOM has created a number of resources specifically for museums and galleries.