We’re reopening on 20 August
Since the government announced that museums and galleries could open from 4 July, we have been busy making plans to reopen. This has involved ordering new signage, perspex screens, PPE for our staff, working out a safe and enjoyable route around the building, the capacity of each gallery space with current social distancing advice, where and how people can queue to come in, new opening hours, increasing our Visitor Services staff to manage social distancing and safe toilet access. We’ve also been investigating whether we can offer a cafe service, how the gallery shop might work and preparing comprehensive risk assessments. There are many health and safety measures to take into account and we don’t want to compromise anyone’s safety – neither the public’s nor that of our staff. Additionally as a department of Manchester City Council – which is coordinating the reopening of its services across the city – we have had to wait for confirmation as to when we can reopen. Public transport is key to this decision as the council needs to make sure that the transport system is available for key workers and won’t get too overcrowded once the city centre opens up.
The national picture
To put all this in a national context, the National Gallery in London was the first to reopen on 8 July, Tate are reopening on 27 July and The V&A on 4 August. HOME in Manchester is reopening in September. We will reopen on 20 August, so not too far behind the large national institutions.
Sadly there are many museums that are not reopening this year. This pandemic has affected the museum and gallery sector hugely with a loss of income from their commercial activities including shops, cafes and venue hire. For some the economics of opening with the reduced numbers who could visit means that they may have to wait until social distancing is no longer a requirement before they can.
Behind the scenes
A programme of essential maintenance and upgrades has also delayed our capacity to reopen straight away, including for example, our connection to the Manchester Civic Quarter Heat Network and replacing 3 very large glass panels high in the gallery atrium.
While we’ve been closed, many staff have been working from home to collectively plan and deliver an online programme of events – some of it an adaptation of our in-gallery programme, but some of it entirely new. The take-up and response to this programme has been incredibly positive and we’re proud of our teams and the way they’ve responded to the lockdown and worked so creatively to continue delivering a service. With initially limited vistor numbers, it’s very likely that some of these online programmes will continue for some time.
We realise that it is frustrating to wait when you are keen to visit and we really appreciate everyone’s patience while we prepare for a safe reopening. We look forward to welcoming you back to the gallery on 20 August. Until then please make the most of our online programme and online collection, and, if you value the work we do, consider making a donation.