As the world attempts to contain the coronavirus outbreak, the Metropolitan Museum of Art will close its doors indefinitely. Major cultural institutions across Europe have also shut down in the last week.
In an official statement made on Thursday, the Met said the difficult decision “was made collaboratively as a response to ensure the health and safety of our staff, our visitors and our community.’’
This year marks the museum’s 150th anniversary, celebrated by the reopening of its British collection galleries and exhibitions like Making the Met, 1870-2020.
No target date for reopening has yet been given whilst the museum implements “rigorous cleaning routines” in all three of its locations – the museum’s flagship building on Fifth Avenue, the Met Breuer on Madison Avenue and the Met Cloisters in Washington Heights.
Referring to the federal Centers for Disease Control, the Met explained that “the CDC has clearly communicated that one of the most effective measures for controlling the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is social distancing.”
After days of uncertainty the president and chief executive of the Met Daniel H. Weiss announced the development of “an operational plan” regarding the COVID-19 virus. Many workers in the institution were relieved to hear that this plan included “provisions to support salaried and hourly staff”.
Only a few hours after the news was reported a flurry of other museums in New York announced closures including the Museum of Modern Art, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, and the Whitney Museum of American Art. So far, the Met is one of the biggest institutions in the world to cease activity.
There have been more than 200 cases of the virus reported in the state of New York. Although no current cases have been linked to the Met, two employees are experiencing flu-like symptoms. This week, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo imposed restrictions on most public gatherings of more than 500 people, which effectively shut down Broadway and other major public institutions.
“As theaters and concert halls go dark, we must ensure that musicians and other arts workers are not left behind,’’ said Adam Krauthamer, the president of New York’s musicians’ union. “We call on all relevant government agencies to work immediately to put together and pass a strong economic relief package that ensures all arts workers have access to health care and unemployment benefits while their workplaces are shuttered.”