Closed doors and open minds: Is it time to reopen our museums?

Published by Florence McCrae on May 1st 2020, 12:12pm

The UK has been under lockdown for almost 40 days and 40 nights, and while the prime minster announced we are “past the peak” of the virus outbreak, it is unclear when we be able to return to some semblance of normality.

When lockdown was first announced, museums and galleries set themselves the timeline of reopening in early May. However, as events progressed, it became clear that this deadline is no longer viable.

Gabriele Finaldi, the National Gallery’s director, said that plans to reopen cultural establishments across the country have changed to the more abstract “until further notice”.

In a piece for The Daily Telegraph, Alastair Sooke, considers the reopening of the Uffizi in Italy, as an indication that British institutions need not be far behind.

Sooke cites the apparent normality of queuing in the supermarket, noting that: “If this nation of queuers is willing to stand in line safely at the threshold of a supermarket, then why not outside the National Gallery?” He even suggests the measures that could be taken in order to ensure the safety of visitors once inside, including the distribution of hand sanitiser and the banning of group tours.

Indeed, Sooke postulates that the overall experience may be augmented by social distancing, allowing visitors the opportunity to get closer the works on display, while maintaining their distance from others. He writes: “One unexpected benefit of Covid-19 is that it is forcing us to recalibrate the super-accelerated, overloaded ways in which we live.”

It is possible that Sooke has forgotten the fact that galleries such as the Uffizi are situated in countries at least two weeks ahead of the UK with regards to Covid-19, or that cultural capitals such as London require public infrastructure simply to get there. While Sooke’s ambitions are honourable, the logistics at present seem unfeasible, even for a nation who are so adept at queuing.

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Authored By

Florence McCrae
Literary Editor
May 1st 2020, 12:12pm

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