Saint Peter’s Basilica opens its doors to visitors on May 18, 2020, marking a relative return to normality at the Vatican.VINCENZO PINTO—AFP/GETTY IMAGES


On Tuesday, UNESCO announced the possibility that one in eight museums could shutter permanently due to effects from coronavirus. Globally, 85,000 institutions have temporarily closed, accounting for about 90 percent of the world’s museums. Ernesto Ottone, assistant director general for culture at UNESCO, told the Associated Press that many museums may not have the financial resources to update their infrastructure for social distancing, primarily due to a loss of revenue. The revelation came Monday, coincidentally on International Museum Day.

World-renowned museums like Musée d’Orsay in Paris, the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, and the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles closed their doors in March, but online visitors toured galleries virtually from around the globe. The Neon Museum had over 15,000 Facebook users tune in for a Facebook Live Tour of its “Lost Vegas” exhibit. The Grammy Museum will host a pre-taped online panel on Peggy Lee accompanied by a virtual exhibit of memorabilia on May 26, marking the first time the museum will debut an exhibit virtually. 

Twitter account @MuseumFromHome has promoted videos from tour guides and curators throughout the pandemic, even promoting a Museum From Home Day on April 30. The hashtag #CuratorBattle went viral in April when museum curators showed off their museum’s “creepiest object.”

The Metropolitan Museum of Art on Wednesday was first to first to announce that it will reopen in August with “major safety precautions.” The same day, the Met canceled its annual gala, which was previously postponed. The Danish government declared that cultural institutions including museums are allowed to reopen immediately. Both Graceland and the Memphis Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum will reopen on Thursday. The Duomo and Uffizi will use a unique way to enforce social distancing when the museum reopens: a wearable device that beeps and flashes when you get too close to another visitor.


Experts warn 1 in 8 museums worldwide may not be able to reopen – The Week – 5/20/2020
Many museums rely on tourism, and the Network of European Museum Organizations said popular destinations like the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and Kunsthistorisches in Vienna could be losing up to $2.75 million every month. In Europe, politicians and royalty have been visiting newly reopened museums in order to bring attention to their plights.

National Building Museum Lays Off Two-Thirds Of Its Staff – DCist – 5/20/2020
Less than a month after it put much of its staff on furlough, the National Building Museum is permanently cutting two-thirds of its staff, citing loss of revenue due to the pandemic. More than 40 administrative and hourly visitor services positions will be eliminated, effective June 1, a museum spokesperson confirmed to DCist on Wednesday. That will leave just 18 core staff who are on partial furlough and two staff members working on grant-based projects.  

The Smithsonian Is Collecting Coronavirus ‘Artifacts’ To Document The Pandemic – NPR – 5/20/2020
Each collection will have its own particular focus. The American History Museum is taking a broad approach: Curators on its COVID-19 task force are putting together lists of objects they want to collect, ranging from handwritten grocery lists and letters from patients to personal protective equipment, test kits and ventilators. Some of the objects will be put on display in an exhibit on disease planned for late next year.

Photo essay: Italy reopens museums and churches – Fortune – 5/21/2020
But things aren’t fully back to normal. Most museums only accept visitors who book in advance. And some must-see landmarks, including Florence’s Duomo, hand out sensors, insisting ticket-holders fasten them to their clothing. To enforce strict social distancing rules, the sensor buzzes whenever it comes within a few feet of another sensor.


Nat’l Cowboy Museum on Twitter, 5/21/2020: Cowboys often covered their faces to protect themselves. Our staff is wearing coverings for your protection. Even our logo has pulled his up. The best way to enjoy the Museum is the Cowboy Way. #HashtagTheCowboy -Seth “from Marketing”

The Mary Rose on Twitter, 5/21/2020:  Catch our CEO Helen Bonser-Wilton (@MaryRose_CEO) this evening from 6pm on @SkyNews as she discusses the plight of the Mary Rose and the wider independent museum sector. An eerie experience to see our museum so empty but we hope you will be able to visit soon.

Museum of the City of NY on Twitter, 5/21/2020: Who couldn’t use a vacation right now? We’re packing our bags & heading off (virtually) to ports near & far. How about these day-off vibes, @GMOA @museumatFIT @pamm?📷 Byron Company, Ships, S.S. Rotterdam, Holland America Line, 1932 Museum of the City of New York

Royal Canadian Geographical Society on Twitter, 5/21/2020: Expedition Arctic Botany will allow curious members of the public to explore the plants of the Arctic region without leaving home, while contributing to our understanding of Arctic ecosystems @MuseumofNature

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