When establishing whether or not to reopen the Wallace Collection, Xavier Bray considered the view of the founder. He notes: “I think Wallace’s first thought would have been to reopen as soon as it was possible and safe to do so. In fact, pretty much since the start of the lockdown, we’ve been preparing how to reopen.”
The Wallace Collection is one of the country’s hundreds of museums who are now able to reopen from 4 July, if they are able to prove they are Covid secure.
For some, the prospect of reopening is not the whole story. Nathaniel Hepburn, director of the Charleston Museum in Sussex notes: “The announcement that museums can reopen from this Saturday is only half the picture. Charleston, like many other museums, simply won’t be able to.”
Hepburn continues that the size of the museum would not provide sufficient space for visitors to distance from one another. He asks: “In the case of many museums and galleries, who will fund the potential 60-70 per cent of income lost already, or that will arise from reduced capacity? Without answers to these questions, our doors remain closed.” With an estimated loss of £500,000 of revenue from tickets, and purchases from the shop and café, it is unclear where the museum will find the funds to reopen.
Yet perhaps there is something upon which both curators can agree. In the words of Bray: “One thing that has become very clear over the lockdown is that there’s no substitute for interaction with the real thing. That will never be replaced.”