Five Philadelphia museums jointly announce that they are reopening this month

Institutions act on go-ahead from the city after their second closing in November

The Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia plans to reopen on Friday

The cycle of museum openings and closings in the US continues to churn amid the pandemic, with five Philadelphia museums announcing today that they will once again welcome visitors this month.

Temporary closures were mandated in Philadelphia on 20 November in response to a rise in coronavirus cases but then lifted by the city for some organisations, including museums, effective today. All five museums plan to resume measures to protect visitors and staff members’ health and safety as they reopen their doors.

The Franklin Institute, a science museum and centre for science education and research, will reopen on Wednesday; the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Barnes Foundation and the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University will greet visitors starting on Friday. The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts will reopen on 21 January.

“With the advent of a new year, we are grateful for the opportunity to welcome our visitors once again,” the directors of the museums said in a joint statement. “Despite the continued challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, the resilience of the cultural sector shines through and cultural experiences remain essential to the well-being of the human spirit, providing inspiration, enrichment and rejuvenation.”

The statement was also joined by the Eastern State Penitentiary, which operates a historic site examining the crumbling prison's history and plans to reopen sometime in March. The Rodin Museum, overseen by the Philadelphia Museum of Art, will reopen later in the spring.

The picture on the East Coast of the US is spotty. Most major New York museums are currently open, with a notable exception being the two Smithsonian museums there. After closures lasting from mid-March to September, Boston museums shut their doors again in mid-December in response to renewed city restrictions while signalling that they were hoping to reopen in January. Washington institutions including the National Gallery of Art and the Smithsonian’s museums have been closed since late November after some phased reopenings.

The Baltimore Museum of Art closed on 25 November and plans to reopen on 16 January, and museums in the southeastern US mostly remain open. The picture varies significantly elsewhere across the country, with many institutions having reopened but Chicago museums, for example, having closed again in November in response to state restrictions and a majority of California museums closed under government mandates.

US museums are facing overwhelming financial challenges because of the pandemic, having lost revenue from admissions and retail sales as well as facilities rentals and on-site fundraising events. Nearly all are struggling to find a way forward.