Museums Are Starting to Reopen — and Some Have Wearable Social Distancing Devices (Video)

Visiting museums is about to look very different.

Museums and cultural centers in Europe are ready to welcome guests once again. But, before you go scurrying overseas there are a few new rules you should know about.

As new coronavirus cases continue to fall across the European continent, more and more destinations are announcing their plans to reopen to visitors. As The New York Times reported, this includes many museums across Germany, including Gemäldegalerie and the Altes Museum, both of which reopened on Tuesday.

Basilica of Saint Mary of the Flower in Florence, Italy
Suttipong Sutiratanachai / Getty Images

In Italy, Afar reported, Florence’s Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore (the Duomo) reopened on Monday, and institutions in Austria and Switzerland resumed operations in May. Villa Borghese and the Capitoline Museums in Rome also opened their doors for visitors on Wednesday, and in Naples, the Museo e Real Bosco di Capodimonte opened on Tuesday.

But, as each and every one of these institutions open their doors, they must also explain new health and safety regulations to visitors before they can go on to enjoy the works.

For example, the Duomo will now require all visitors to wear physical transponders that beep and buzz when one guest gets too close to another.

“It is a device that immediately alerts you if you are too close to another visitor,” Timothy Verdon, director of the Cathedral’s museum, told France24. “So it won’t be a question of evaluating the distance a bit vaguely. By wearing it, the visitor will feel the sensor with a vibration and a sound that will inform him that he’s too close to another person, less than two meters away.”

Officials at the Duomo also noted in the reopening announcement that guests will be required to wear face masks and it will make hand sanitizer widely available for all.

Museums around the globe will likely require similar measures when the time comes for them to open to the public as well, as they too will be working off the guidelines set out in April by the International Committee for Museums and Collections of Modern Art.

The global museum network, which counts more than 35,000 members in its ranks, set out the visitor guidelines, which include temperature screenings, visitor registration for potential contact tracing, requiring masks upon entry, and even the potential for museums to turn away guests who have been to hot zone areas in the last two weeks. Other guidelines include barriers and markers to encourage social distancing, as well as increased cleanings and training staff on how to properly implement all the new measures.

In the United States, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston will become the first major institution to open its doors this weekend.

“Each of us plays a role in a safe reopening, with social distancing, face masks, and additional health and safety precautions in place,” the museum shared in its announcement. “We recognize that circumstances may change at any moment. But we remain hopeful that we will be able to serve our public under the safest possible conditions and under new norms, ones to which Houstonians across the city are already becoming accustomed.”

As for how museum staffers really feel about the new rules, Thomas Köhler, the director of the Berlinische Galerie, told The New York Times, the new protocols are “not pleasant, but it is necessary,” adding, “I think the joy that people will get from being back in the museum will be bigger than the inconvenience.”

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