Visitors with arms raised in victory, applause and lines at the foot of the counters: The Metropolitan Museum reopened to the public on Saturday in a festive atmosphere, a sign to many that the first American metropolis is coming to life later. almost six months of walking at an unknown pace due to the pandemic.
“I am a huge fan of museums and I am absolutely excited to be here. It is a really important moment for the city, everything is starting to come back to life,” Michelle Scully, 39, who was one of the the first New Yorkers to return to the imposing building on Fifth Avenue, on a Central Park shoreline.
New York is “the best city in the world, and we are here, we will not leave: it will be even better than before,” he added.
With several hundred people, this Canadian-born woman stood in line from 10 a.m. (2:00 p.m. GMT), and smilingly complied with the new health rules – mouth covers, temperature measurement and reservation – to access the Dendur Temple and treasures, from ancient Egypt to contemporary art.
The joy was perceptible among those present at the Met, one of the most visited museums in the world.
Chris Martinetti, 34, and his wife, who came from Queens, returned to “their favorite place,” the museum where they had their first date more than five years ago.
Tracy-Ann Samuel arrived from neighboring Connecticut with her four and nine-year-old daughters, eager to once again be “surrounded by beautiful works of art,” which she considers “therapy for the soul.”
The reopening “means there is a semblance of normalcy,” he said. He added: “The Met has been a part of New York history for 150 years … it’s an important first step.”
For weeks, the Met saw its great European counterparts, like the Louvre, reopen.
But authorities in New York, which recorded a record number of more than 23,600 deaths, especially in the spring, have acted very cautiously to contain the pandemic.
The reopening of museums has only been allowed since this week. MoMA did so on Thursday, with a capacity capped at 25%.
During this time, Met officials have taken the opportunity to learn from their colleagues and are reassured about the possibility of a “second wave” of covid-19. “We hear what is happening in other places and we know that (reopening) safely is not that difficult,” Daniel Weiss, president of the museum, told ..
There was also time to adjust to the historic movement against social inequalities that has roiled the United States since the death of African-American George Floyd in late May. The museum presents a new exhibition dedicated to the artist Jacob Lawrence (1917-2000), reflecting a “more inclusive” museum with the black community, according to Weiss.
The deficit of this institution, which depends more than European museums on tickets and which was going to celebrate its 150th anniversary with a major event in April, is nevertheless “very substantial”: some 150 million dollars in losses in 18 months, Weiss said.
After the disappearance of the tourists, the museum has had to cut its expenses and lay off around 20% of its 2,000 employees. And now he will have to deal with capacity constraints for months: 7,000 to 10,000 people were expected this Saturday, against 30,000 to 40,000 on a “normal” Saturday in August.
But the Met may survive, Weiss said, as “a great institution.” “I am much more concerned about the little ones,” he said.
While some see the future bleak, seeing the exodus of thousands of wealthy New Yorkers or the collapse of business districts as signs that New York is “done,” Weiss is convinced, like many, that the city will resurface.
From the attacks of September 11, 2001, to Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and the financial crisis of 2008, “New York has been through many, many things,” he said.
“I think everyone wants to see tourists return (…) When that happens, we will be ready,” he said.
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