One-way visitor traffic and a ban on audio tours: guidelines for reopening museums emerge

Brussels museums release their planned safety measures along with the museum ethics organisation Cimam

Masks will be mandatory at re-opened museums Photo: cottonbro from Pexels

Officials at the Royal Museums of Fine Arts in Brussels have issued strict safety measures that visitors must follow when the Old Masters Museum, part of the Royal Museums group, reopens on 19 May. The move could set a possible precedent for museums hoping to open their doors in the near future after closing for prolonged periods in the wake of the coronavirus crisis.

Safety measures planned for the Brussels museums include following a one-way circuit. A quota of admissions per hour will spread the number of visitors throughout the day and audio guides will not be offered “in order to reduce the risk of contamination”. The safety measures posted online also state: “Depending on the size of the rooms, more or less people will be admitted simultaneously. The allowed number will always be indicated at the entrance of each room.” The Belgian collector Alain Servais tweeted however: "But who will bear costs on lower revenues?"

The art historian Bendor Grosvenor, tweeted that “[it is] interesting to see the rules here [re: Brussels] for possible museum reopening”. In response, Tony Butler, the executive director of Derby Museums, UK, said: “Through a range of UK museum networks, we are already planning how museums can open and operate with distancing measures in place. We want to open up and share our treasures as soon as it is safe to do so.”

Meanwhile, the international museum ethics body Cimam (International Committee for Museums and Collections of Modern Art) has issued a set of Precautions for Museums during Covid-19 Pandemic, encompassing safety measures for re-opening and resuming activity at museums.

The recommendations were prepared by three Cimam board members: Eugene Tan, the director of National Gallery Singapore and Singapore Art Museum; Suhanya Raffel, the director of M+ Hong Kong; and Mami Kataoka, the president of Cimam and director of Mori Art Museum, Tokyo. “The [precautions document] is based on the examples of these three museums in response to the outbreak of Covid-19,” says a Cimam statement.

The document comprises 20 points under headings such as “visitor safety” and “public communication”. These include: “Implement temperature screening of all visitors as well as keeping an eye out for individuals who appear unwell. These visitors must be turned away and encouraged to seek medical attention.”

All visitors and participants must wear a mask and all guided tours must be suspended, according to Cimam's experts. Another suggestion is suspending programmes and events “targeted at senior citizens and other vulnerable groups”. To ensure staff safety, it proposes “implement[ing] daily temperature checking twice daily for all staff, once on arrival and a second time at 2pm, the results of which should be recorded”.