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As museums reopen across the world, are people ready to go back to cultural institutions?


Agence France-Presse

 /  Tue, July 7, 2020  /  10:03 pm
As museums reopen across the world, are people ready to go back to cultural institutions?

A visitor wearing a protective face mask takes a selfie in front of Leonardo da Vinci's masterpiece 'Mona Lisa' also known as 'La Gioconda' on the reopening day of the Louvre Museum in Paris on July 6, 2020. (AFP/FRANCOIS GUILLOT )

As museums and galleries are emerging from their coronavirus lockdowns, most are still puzzling over how to reconfigure their spaces in line with new health and safety regulations. Uncertainty also remains whether people will actually visit cultural institutions in the coming weeks.

At a time when research suggests that nearly 13 percent of museums worldwide may never reopen, American Civil War Museum CEO Christy Coleman took to Twitter to ask potential museum-goers "what would it take for you to feel comfortable visiting your local organization?"

While many of the responses discussed levels of rules for hygiene and social distancing, one respondent stated that "museums are one of the few public spaces I will go to before there is a vaccine," echoing the results of various reports on the attendance of museums in the COVID-19 era.

A new survey by IMPACTS suggests that American adults are increasingly comfortable with the idea of going to a museum in the near future, although visitors' stated intentions to visit a cultural organization vary according to their state of residence.

Surveyed respondents in California, Oregon, and Washington are among the most likely to visit a cultural institution within the next three months, pending the lift of coronavirus-related restrictions.

Similarly, a new study by WolfBrown, conducted with 3,778 respondents living in Southeast Michigan, finds that 75% of them would be comfortable visiting an art institution as soon as it is allowed.

Although the public's expressed interest in visiting cultural sites varies throughout the United States, results are more encouraging in some countries in Europe.

Read also: Louvre museum reopens after 16-week virus shutdown

As French museums are reopening en masse after more than three months of lockdown, a study by l'Oeil du Public notes that most of those surveyed are ready to comply with new social distancing regulation and see art in person (50 percent).

Some 7,000 art enthusiasts have reserved tickets for a long-awaited tête-à-tête with the "Mona Lisa," as the Louvre in Paris unlocked its doors for the first time in months this Monday, July 6. Meanwhile, the Centre George Pompidou, also in Paris, reportedly welcomed about 3,000 visitors for its official reopening on July 1.

While social distancing may feel like second nature to some art aficionados in France, British people are more anxious at the idea of returning to cultural institutions amidst the pandemic.

According to a new poll from Ipsos MORI, 49 percent of the public say that they are "not very comfortable" or "not at all comfortable" with visiting an indoor museum or exhibition after coronavirus-related restrictions are eased.

Only 34 percent of people said they were "very" or "fairly" comfortable going to a museum after lockdown, although 59% of Britons surveyed are comfortable at the idea of going to cinemas and theaters as soon as they reopen on July 4. 

In London the National Gallery is set to reopen on July 8 and the Royal Academy of Arts on July 9, while more sites have plans to reopen later this month.

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