Despite early media reports claiming museums would be included in Step 2 reopening, beginning no earlier than the 12th April, it will be at least the 17th May before a cultural attraction in England will be open to visitors.
— Oliver Dowden (@OliverDowden) February 22, 2021
The feeling that other industries are given preferential treatment is an all too familiar one for museums professionals, with lockdown easing last summer having similarly left culture sector venues to wait while other businesses that appeared no safer could reopen.
‘Here we go again’
As ever, much of the sector’s disappointment was laid bare on Twitter. ALVA (Association of Leading Visitor Attractions), which has campaigned relentlessly for museums to receive a fair chance of reopening as soon as is safely possible, led the way in lambasting the decision.
There is, it states, “no public health or epidemiological justification” for visitor attractions to trail behind the likes of non-essential retail, especially when there has been “no proven evidence of [museums] being sites of Covid transmission”.
There is no public health or epidemiological justification for indoor attractions – which @PHE_uk state have no proven evidence of being sites of COVID transmission – not opening at the same time as non-essential retail. If you can open H&M you can open the V&A. https://t.co/MXHSWEHmfL
— ALVA (@alva_uk) February 22, 2021
ALVA has also called for an additional bank holiday to help the sector recoup a small percentage of the income lost by being closed through lucrative spells such as the Easter break.
We urge the public to contact their MP & ask them to press the Government to introduce an additional #BankHoliday in late September to partially compensate for the fact that we have now lost Easter, we’ve only had 1 Bank Holiday in the last year, & attractions need to recover £.
— ALVA (@alva_uk) February 22, 2021
Many prominent figures from across the museums sector also spoke of their disdain for the treatment of the industry, particularly as it has heralded the return of a familiar sinking feeling.
Here we go again… https://t.co/Ga1dGwxccD
— Esme Ward (@ward_esme) February 22, 2021
Museums are apparently "indoor hospitality" and can reopen from 17 May. Non essential shops and commercial galleries can open 12 April. Nice to know where one stands in the pecking order. #Covid19UK https://t.co/x9tYnfOoUL
— Priya Khanchandani (@Hiyapriya) February 22, 2021
Disappointing news again for museums. I sometimes wonder what activities people think we offer that makes us a higher risk than shopping.
— Victoria Barlow (@vickybarlo) February 22, 2021
Museums are opening under Step 3, like saunas and steam rooms (other parts of gyms and spas can open under Step 2). I seem to have been working with a different conception of my sector for my whole career. @MuseumsAssoc
— Nick Merriman (@nickmerriman01) February 22, 2021
The fact that Museums cannot open until 17 May ignores their relative safety but is likely based on indicative of how the sector is viewed within society and the economy rather than relative safety & actual economic contribution
— Richard Saward WFH & not in York for a bit (@YMT_Richard) February 22, 2021
Maintaining some form of humour and positivity is, however, also a staple of museums Twitter. In the aftermath of yesterday’s saddening announcement this was no different.
I was as young as you last time I could go to a museum! pic.twitter.com/nxfZl6Jaim
— Linda Spurdle (@LSpurdle) February 22, 2021
Museum objects on tour to beer gardens and libraries it is then.
— Melanie Hollis (@meloonameloona) February 22, 2021
Many a true word said in jest? Perhaps beer garden outreach will be to 2021 what digital was in 2020.