The Museums Association (MA) and a number of other museum stakeholders have welcomed the announcement that museums and galleries in England will be able to reopen from 4 July after 105 days of closure.
Prime minister Boris Johnson confirmed this week that museums would be permitted to welcome visitors back with appropriate safety measures in place. Government officials also confirmed that museums will be part of the government's Track and Trace programme, meaning they will be obliged to register visitors' contact details and hold the data for 21 days.In a joint statement, museum sector bodies said substantial investment would be needed to help the sector recover after the crisis. The statement said: “The National Museum Directors’ Council, Museums Association and Association of Independent Museums welcome the government’s announcement today that museums in England can reopen from 4 July.
“Museums are eager to welcome back families, schools and communities and to support their local economies as we emerge from the crisis. However, permission to reopen does not resolve the huge issues currently facing the sector. All museums have lost substantial income during the lockdown and in many cases reopening museums will cost more than keeping them closed.
“4 July is a starting point from which museums can make practical plans based on the latest public health advice while ensuring staff and visitor safety and working within their different financial and local contexts.
“Museums are eager to reopen and play their part to support recovery however substantial financial investment will be needed from government to ensure the future resilience and long-term sustainability of all parts of the museum sector.”
The MA's director, Sharon Heal, said: "It’s great news that museums in England can open their doors to their local communities from 4th July. However, government go-ahead will not mean that every museum will reopen on that date. Museums have lost substantial income during the lockdown and in many cases they will have to think carefully about the cost of reopening and if it is safe for staff, volunteers and visitors to do so.
"Where they can, museums are planning measures such as one-way systems and timed entry and implementing strict health and safety measures in line with government guidance. For those museums that do reopen next month the experience for visitors will be different; cafes, interactives and play areas might not be open, but the welcome from front-of-house staff will be as warm as ever.
"We know that many museums face an uncertain future because of the loss of income during lockdown, predicted lower visitor numbers, the cost of implementing public safety measures and the prospect of cuts to local authority budgets. Museums are eager to reopen but substantial financial investment will be needed from government to ensure the future sustainability of our much-loved museums."
A further statement from the directors of Tate, the Science Museum Group, National Gallery, British Museum, Natural History Museum and Victoria and Albert Museum said: “As directors of some of the UK’s leading national museums, we welcome the prime minister’s announcement to allow the safe reopening of our galleries to the public this summer.
"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.
"The British public have faced a wretched few months of isolation, loss, and anxiety in confronting the Covid-19 pandemic. The reopening of museums – whose galleries speak to the creative, resilient power of the human spirit – will provide solace and inspiration as Britain looks to the future.
"Museums live through the conversation between object and visitor. Our collections are held in trust not to be hidden away, but to be discussed, challenged, and loved: a role of particular significance as we reflect on current debates around crucial issues including racial equality, social justice, and climate change.”
The Northern Ireland Executive confirmed last week that museums in Northern Ireland would be allowed to reopen from 3 July. The devolved governments have yet to announce when museums in Scotland and Wales can reopen, but are expected to reveal their plans shortly.
The prime minister also announced that restaurants and pubs would be able to reopen from 4 July, when the current 2m social distancing rule will be relaxed to 1m, provided people use additional mitigation measures.
The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport is due to release good practice guidelines to help museums and galleries safely reopen, developed in collaboration with sector stakeholders. More details will be published on the Museums Association website in due course.
Updated to include news that museums will be part of the government's Track and Trace programme.