London’s V&A, Science Museum and Natural History Museum are set to reopen their doors in August with new social distancing measures after almost five months of closure during the pandemic.
The three South Kensington galleries are set to stagger their opening days and introduce mandatory online booking in a bid to reduce pressure on public transport to the area.
The Natural History Museum will be the first of the three museums on Exhibition Road to reopen on 5 August, and will initially only open from Wednesdays to Saturdays to reduce crowd numbers.
The V&A will open on 6 August, and will also reduce its weekly hours, initially opening from Thursday to Sunday from 11am-3pm with its galleries opening in phases.
The Science Museum is set to reopen its doors seven days a week to the public on 19 August with limited opening hours from 11am-6pm.
Sir Ian Blatchford, director of the Science Museum, said the delayed opening times would weigh on the company, but that the government’s recent announcement of a £1.57bn emergency arts and heritage package would allow the museum to get through the current financial year.
Measures will be implemented across the three sites to comply with social distancing rules, including capacity caps, booking requirements and timed tickets.
After its longest closure since World War Two, the Natural History Museum will reopen the majority of its galleries on 5 August, alongside its five-acre gardens opposite Hyde Park.
Director of the Natural History Museum Sir Michael Dixon said: “We’re delighted to be able to safely share our wonderful buildings, spacious galleries and gardens once again.
“The nation has reconnected with the natural world during lockdown and there is no better place to discover all it has to offer than our museum… Visitors will be able to explore our magnificent halls and galleries without the crowds – something only our staff usually experience outside opening hours.”
However, he warned that expected visitor numbers will be limited to 2,800 a day — around a fifth of the Natural History Museum’s usual daily audience.
Visitors to the V&A will be able to scope out most of its permanent collections, in addition to its Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk exhibition, which has been extended after the lockdown shuttered the museum’s doors just two weeks into its run.
Director of the V&A, Tristram Hunt, said: “The V&A has ample space for social distancing, and all safety measures are in place for our visitors to enjoy 5,000 years of ingenuity in art, design and performance.”
“Museums speak to the creative and resilient power of the human spirit, but also live through the conversation between object and visitor. Our collections belong to the public, to be discussed, challenged, and loved.”