Major museums announce reopening plans and expect 80% drop in visitor numbers


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Natural History Museum

Curator checks distance between two exhibits at the Natural History Museum

Some of London’s largest museums have announced plans to reopen next month, but expect an 80% drop in the number of visitors.

The Natural History Museum, the V&A and the Science Museum will reopen in August.

Visitors will be “strongly” recommended to wear masks, but this will not be mandatory, as will be the case in stores.

Free tickets must be reserved in advance. The places have excluded invoicing, despite their “very precarious” finances.

The museums all have their main base in South Kensington and will reopen before the end of the summer school holidays:

  • Natural History Museum – August 5, Wednesday-Sunday, with the “vast majority” of galleries open. The Tring, Hertfordshire branch will reopen the same day.
  • VIRGINIE – ground floor and ground floor from August 6, open Thursday to Sunday; then first and second floors, and the V&A Dundee, from August 27.
  • Science Museum – August 19, seven days a week until September 6, then Wednesday to Sunday. Reopening dates vary for the other four attractions of the Science Museum Group.

The director of the Natural History Museum, Sir Michael Dixon, said that its number of visitors would initially be capped at 2,800 per day.

“But that represents about one fifth of our normal average attendance,” he said. “We expect something like an 80% reduction until the rules of social distancing change and the public’s attitude towards visits changes.

“We think demand will outweigh supply, but that is an assumption because we are currently in a period of mass uncertainty. “

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Museums with V&A closed since March

The V&A expects a reduction “in the same stadium,” said director Tristram Hunt, explaining that it would open for fewer days than normal at first.

“Our finances have been strengthened by the government but are still very precarious, so there is no point in having very long hours if no one goes through the door,” he said.

Museum owners praised government for emergency funding of £ 1.5 billion, but said they would need more money next year to make up for the number of people shopping in their cafes and stores.

Hunt said it would take “a new partnership with the government that recognizes this new reality, which understands that in the absence of commercial revenues from these visitors, we will need more government support for the future.”

The funding announced by the government earlier this month was “remarkably good,” said Sir Ian Blatchford, director of the Science Museum Group and chair of the National Council of Museum Directors.

“This is the kind of thing you expect from the German or French government,” he said.

“A retrograde step”

“The big problem for us is next year – the [next] full exercise – there will be a discussion with the government this fall. ”

But he said billing for tickets to fill the financial gap was “certainly not on the agenda,” beyond special exhibitions.

“It seems to me that this is the worst possible policy. There is no support for the entry fees of any major political party.

“As far as I am concerned, this debate is dead, buried and covered with concrete because in an era when we are trying to increase the diversity of our audience, I think that making people pay to go to museums would be a step downgrade from absolutely the worst.

“If the government presented it, I would resign. “

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