The UK government has outlined plans for museums to reopen from July 4th.
The news comes as Prime Minister Boris Johnson continues to work with Health Secretary Matt Hancock to ease lockdown restrictions amid the current pandemic crisis.
The arts and culture sector, who have been hit heavily with financial difficulty having been forced to close their doors since mid-March, have welcomed the decision. Directors of six major national museums issued a joint statement to follow the safety guidelines.
“We welcome the Prime Minister’s announcement to allow the safe reopening of our galleries to the public this summer,” the statement reads. “We will now work closely with government, trade unions and supporters to see how and when we can open our doors again in a financially sustainable manner, for the long term,” it added.
The joint letter was signed by Maria Balshaw of the Tate, Ian Blatchford from the Science Museum Group, Natural History Museum representative Mike Dixon, Gabriele Finaldi of the National Gallery, Hartwig Fischer from British Museum and Tristram Hunt of the Victoria and Albert Museum.
Given the prolonged period of lockdown, a time which has challenged mental health and altered our social interactions, the directors of the galleries and museums explained how their institutions have “a role of particular significance as we reflect on current debates around crucial issues including racial equality, social justice, and climate change.”
Despite the signs of positivity, Jenny Waldman, director of the Art Fund charity, reaffirmed that all galleries and museums continue to struggle with the uncertainty formed by the crisis. “The lockdown closures have hit museums’ finances incredibly hard; some may never reopen and for those who can, social distancing measures will drastically limit visitor numbers and associated income that make them economically viable,” she said.
Iwona Blazwick, the Whitechapel Gallery’s director, added: “Galleries are the perfect spaces in this situation as people do not have to congregate and can move freely around the works. The staff will wear face visors made by the technical team at Goldsmiths College,” she adds, stressing that “there is both an ethical imperative to open in our duty to artists and the public as well as a financial one.”
Alistair Brown, the policy manager at UK Museums Association, commented: “Great that museums will be able to open again soon. But with limited visitor numbers, no international tourism and still no long-term rescue package, huge problems remain for the sector.”