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Florence Duomo
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European museums are starting to reopen – here’s how they’re social-distancing

Florence’s cathedral and museum is introducing wearable devices that beep if you get too close to someone else

Ellie Walker-Arnott
Written by
Ellie Walker-Arnott

Across Europe, cities are slowly starting to reopen. That means a return of non-essential shops, restaurants and schools, and it also means some of the continent’s world-famous institutions are poised to reopen the doors.

Icons like Paris’s Louvre, Rome’s Coliseum and Florence’s Uffizi Gallery remain shuttered for the foreseeable, but some landmarks, galleries and museums in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy and France have already begun tentatively welcoming visitors, along with a host of new social distancing measures.

So what is visiting a museum like in the age of social-distancing? Across Europe, museum-goers can now expect face masks to be compulsory and hand sanitiser to be available throughout exhibits.

Ticketless online booking with staggered arrival times to avoid queuing and overcrowding in the attraction is also the new norm, while people should also expect reduced capacity, glass screens at customer service desks, a ban on cash payments and group tours, and one-way walking routes around the artworks. 

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When Florence’s Duomo and museum reopens this weekend (May 22), they’ll be introducing a more creative way to keep people apart. Visitors will be asked to wear social distancing devices around their necks. The tech will quietly beep, flash and vibrate if a visitor gets too close – i.e. within two metres of – another visitor. The wearable devices will be given out for free at the entrance, and handed back at the end to be thoroughly disinfected.  

The International Committee for Museums and Collections of Modern Art has released guidance for museums as they start to reopen which suggests introducing temperature screening as well as ‘visitor registration and contact tracing measures at the entrances and admission points to events and venues, such as obtaining the contact details of visitors and participants.’

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The Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, which will become the first museum in the US to reopen, will be implementing part of this guidance when it welcomes the public back in later this month. As well as introducing compulsory masks, no cash payments and a strict capacity cap, visitors will have their temperatures taken upon arrival.  

Our new reality means that visiting museums, art galleries and attractions won’t look like it used to for a while, but for those of us desperate to see some art IRL, it’ll be a welcome relief from virtual museum experiences. Thomas Köhler, the director of the Berlinische Galerie in Germany, told the New York Times the new measures 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.’ We hope that’s the case. 

Staying at home? This virtual art gallery has been created specifically for lockdown

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