In the past few weeks, the coronavirus (COVID-19) has been dominating international news with its rapid spread. Everyone has a part in keeping themselves and their community as healthy as possible, and that includes museums. So, what is happening with museums? Most places are responding rapidly with plans for closing if things get worse and increased cleaning precautions. Here are some responses across the country and throughout the world.
- The Louvre closed its doors on Sunday (3/1) amid concerns from workers that their safety was at risk with the high number of visitors that travel from all over the world. However, the museum reopened on Wednesday (3/4) after the management of the museum, a doctor, and staff representatives worked together to come up with increased precautions to protect workers.
- The Italian government drafted laws to close off the Lombardy region, and these laws included the closure of museums, among other public places.
- The Chinese government was the first to handle the massive battle with COVID-19, and they took swift action, ordering all museums and art galleries to close on 1/24. These institutions remain closed indefinitely.
- On the west coast, there have been cases of increased health safety with staff members opening doors for visitors, rather than having each visitor touch the handles. There has also been one case of a museum shutdown. The San Jose Children’s Discovery Center had a staff member who may have been exposed to the disease, so they closed their doors until the proper testing could be administered to ensure the safety of their other staff members and their visitors.
- Today, New York state declared a state of emergency. So far, many museums have increased their cleaning procedures – the Whitney Museum of American Art has had maintenance workers double the number of times they clean doorknobs – but according to ARTnews, no major institutions have closed their doors yet. Instead, they are keeping an eye on the situation in order to respond quickly if necessary.
Each museum will have its own response. Right now, vigilant cleaning procedures will help to mitigate the spread of germs, which is already an important procedure in flu season. Institutions in less affected areas have time to prepare for closures in the future and what that might mean for them.