No more selfies: European museums respond to Covid-19

Published by Florence McCrae on May 13th 2020, 10:10am

Gone are the days of crowding round the Rosetta stone, or vying for a photograph of the Mona Lisa. Indeed, selfie sticks have swiftly been replaced by face masks, as museums across Europe slowly reopen in response following the Covid-19 pandemic.

With coronavirus infections declining in some parts of Europe, a handful of museums have made the decision to reopen, under strict new guidelines, which a matter of months ago would have been unimaginable.

According to Thomas Köhler, director of Berlinische Galerie, the new list of guidelines is “not pleasant, but it is necessary.”

In Germany, the 16 states have provided individual schedules for easing the lockdown. While museums in Berlin were allowed to open from Monday last week, many have made the decision to remain closed, at least while they establish guidelines. Köhler opened the Berlinische Galerie a week after he was permitted to do so, in order to provide time to consider the trickier details.

He notes that: “I think the joy that people will get from being back in the museum will be bigger than the inconvenience.”

At the Berlinische Galerie, visitors are informed that they must abide by the newly introduced rules. These include respecting social distancing and wearing face coverings. They have also been encouraged to use the hand sanitiser dispensers as they see fit.

Christine Haak, the deputy director general of Berlin State Museums has also been tasked with responding to this brave new world. The BSM, responsible for 17 of Berlin’s museums, has made the decision to reopen four of their establishments as of yesterday. She notes that the experience is almost entirely removed from previous trips.

“People are aware they cannot be too close to the art, because an alarm will go off,” she says, “but now they also need to keep a distance from one another, and that’s a new experience.”

The cap on international travel will also serve to drive down visitor numbers, aiding social distancing, but providing uncertain futures for such establishments.

With museums in the UK still closed, it is as yet unclear whether they will follow the measures adopted by their European brothers and sisters.

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Florence McCrae
Literary Editor
May 13th 2020, 10:10am

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