An Italian Renaissance study will be closed to visitors because it is too small to allow for social distancing.
Timed tickets will be scanned by hand-held devices in the Great Hall.
And, for the first time, there will be valet parking for bicycles, since many people are avoiding mass transit.
It is tempting to hope that all will be business as usual when the Metropolitan Museum of Art finally swings open its Fifth Avenue doors to the general public on Saturday, after five months of closure because of the coronavirus outbreak.
But because the pandemic continues to convulse the globe, the country’s largest museum will, in many ways, reopen as a very different Met.
Perhaps most notably, the museum will now mainly be a New York institution, given the pandemic’s ongoing travel restrictions. Whereas 70 percent of the Met’s seven million annual visitors were typically tourists, now the museum expects those moving through its galleries to be largely local residents.
Like all New York museums that are reopening, the Met also has to play by the state’s rules, namely 25 percent occupancy, timed ticketing and masks. (The Met is selling its own based on its collection, including Monet’s “Water Lilies” and Van Gogh’s “Bouquet of Flowers in a Vase”). The museum will also require visitors to have their temperature taken before entry.
In the past, the museum could expect on a busy day more than 5,000 visitors per hour — especially with tour buses arriving early in the morning. Now the museum will limit the crowd to an hourly rate of 2,000 and reduce its hours, closing Tuesdays and Wednesdays. School groups are not yet permitted.
The Met has been eager to reopen, not only for its own recovery — having projected a $150 million loss — but for the larger cultural life of New York City.
“The Met plays a very important role within New York — it’s such a strong signal for getting back to a certain level of normalcy and getting back to life,” said Max Hollein, who became the Met’s director just two years ago. “In that sense, it’s a signature institution. It has that kind of responsibility, but it also has that ability to carry a city forward.”
Other museums will be reopening this week, including the Museum of Modern Art and the Museum of the City of New York, and more have announced their opening dates — like the Whitney (Sept. 3), the Bronx Museum of the Arts (Sept. 9), the Brooklyn Museum, El Museo del Barrio (Sept. 12) and the Guggenheim (Oct. 3). The Met Cloisters will reopen on Sept. 12.
These New York museums have been learning from other institutions, including the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, the first to reopen in the U.S. in May; and those in Europe, which have been back in operation since the spring.
To the extent that the Met is the largest of its peers, the museum is at a distinct advantage — two million square feet of floor space to allow for social distancing. Smaller New York institutions must reopen in more circumscribed ways. The Tenement Museum will have a phased reopening beginning Sept. 12, and the Drawing Center will reopen by appointment only starting Oct. 7.
To be ready once Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo gave museums the green light to open — which he finally did on Aug. 14 — the Met has been preparing in minute detail, training its visitor services staff on how to interact with patrons and making sure its ticket systems are operational.
Will Sullivan, the head of visitor experience, who has worked at the Met for more than 25 years, said he was part of a task force of New York museums that have been working together on how to reopen safely and effectively.
“We are now at the point of taking months and months of work,” Mr. Sullivan said, “and bringing it to life.”
Some galleries may dictate circulation patterns, and a few cramped spaces, like the intimate wood-inlay study, may be closed. Otherwise, just about every part of the Met will be accessible when the museum reopens — first to members on Thursday and Friday, then the general public on Saturday.
“Our goal was really that you have the Met experience,” Mr. Hollein said, “meaning that you don’t just have one wing open, but you see this great institution in all its different aspects, and it’s a museum that you know and that you love.”
The Met will test out a free bike valet service, organized with Transportation Alternatives, the bicycle and pedestrian advocacy group. “People can come leave their bikes for as long as they want,” said Danny Harris, the group’s executive director. “When they come back, their bike will be waiting for them to get wherever they need to go.”
The bikes — each of which will be sanitized — will be parked on the plaza, just north of the main steps.
“This is one more way to make the museum accessible to visitors,” said Kenneth Weine, the Met’s vice president of external affairs and an avid biker, who thought up the idea. “We know New Yorkers are eager to visit, and that many more are biking.”
To be sure, there are reasons to be nervous. Will people come? Will they submit to temperature checks, wear masks and observe distancing guidelines? Will the virus eventually surge again in New York City, possibly forcing the museum to shut down once more?
These are the questions that have been keeping Mr. Sullivan up at night. “I worry — did we get all the details right?” he said. “Did I miss something? Am I forgetting something?”
The Coronavirus Outbreak ›
Frequently Asked Questions
Updated August 24, 2020
What are the symptoms of coronavirus?
- In the beginning, the coronavirus seemed like it was primarily a respiratory illness — many patients had fever and chills, were weak and tired, and coughed a lot. Those who seemed sickest had pneumonia or acute respiratory distress syndrome — which caused their blood oxygen levels to plummet — and received supplemental oxygen. In severe cases, they were placed on ventilators to help them breathe. By now, doctors have identified many more symptoms and syndromes. (And some people don’t show many symptoms at all.) In April, the C.D.C. added to the list of early signs sore throat, fever, chills and muscle aches. Gastrointestinal upset, such as diarrhea and nausea, has also been observed. Another telltale sign of infection may be a sudden, profound diminution of one’s sense of smell and taste. Teenagers and young adults in some cases have developed painful red and purple lesions on their fingers and toes — nicknamed “Covid toe” — but few other serious symptoms.
Why does standing six feet away from others help?
- The coronavirus spreads primarily through droplets from your mouth and nose, especially when you cough or sneeze. The C.D.C., one of the organizations using that measure, bases its recommendation of six feet on the idea that most large droplets that people expel when they cough or sneeze will fall to the ground within six feet. But six feet has never been a magic number that guarantees complete protection. Sneezes, for instance, can launch droplets a lot farther than six feet, according to a recent study. It’s a rule of thumb: You should be safest standing six feet apart outside, especially when it’s windy. But keep a mask on at all times, even when you think you’re far enough apart.
I have antibodies. Am I now immune?
- As of right now, that seems likely, for at least several months. There have been frightening accounts of people suffering what seems to be a second bout of Covid-19. But experts say these patients may have a drawn-out course of infection, with the virus taking a slow toll weeks to months after initial exposure. People infected with the coronavirus typically produce immune molecules called antibodies, which are protective proteins made in response to an infection. These antibodies may last in the body only two to three months, which may seem worrisome, but that’s perfectly normal after an acute infection subsides, said Dr. Michael Mina, an immunologist at Harvard University. It may be possible to get the coronavirus again, but it’s highly unlikely that it would be possible in a short window of time from initial infection or make people sicker the second time.
I’m a small-business owner. Can I get relief?
- The stimulus bills enacted in March offer help for the millions of American small businesses. Those eligible for aid are businesses and nonprofit organizations with fewer than 500 workers, including sole proprietorships, independent contractors and freelancers. Some larger companies in some industries are also eligible. The help being offered, which is being managed by the Small Business Administration, includes the Paycheck Protection Program and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program. But lots of folks have not yet seen payouts. Even those who have received help are confused: The rules are draconian, and some are stuck sitting on money they don’t know how to use. Many small-business owners are getting less than they expected or not hearing anything at all.
What are my rights if I am worried about going back to work?
But there have also been purely joyful aspects of the process, Met staff members said, such as opening the exhibition of Jacob Lawrence’s rarely seen series of paintings, “Struggle: From the History of the American People” (1954-56), which highlights the experiences of women and people of color.
“We’re trying to do right by him,” said Randall Griffey, a curator of the show, speaking of the artist, who died in 2000. “The Met has been very vocal about commitments to Black representation and equity, and we’re very lucky to reopen with something like this — it’s almost regrettably timely.”
The Met will finally be able to do a number of things: showcase its 150th anniversary show, “Making the Met, 1870-2020,” which focuses on the institution’s history; open its rooftop garden exhibition of Héctor Zamora; and unveil its costume exhibit, “About Time: Fashion and Duration,” which was supposed to happen in May — along with its annual gala — but will now open in October.
While the Met’s Gerhard Richter show at the Breuer building will not reopen — the Frick has taken over the space — four paintings from the artist’s important “Birkenau” series will be on view in the main building starting in September.
In anticipation of its reopening, the Met has dedicated, for the first time, the facade spaces usually used for exhibition banners to display art: two new banners that Yoko Ono created in response to the pandemic featuring the words “Dream” and “Together.”
Rebekah Laskin, a Brooklyn-based jewelry artist, said she was looking forward to reuniting with a museum she has missed. “The Met is a touchstone for me — it always has been,” she said. “It’s a place I go for refuge, inspiration and delight.”
Despite all the careful planning, there are bound to be kinks; the Met — like museums everywhere — is in uncharted territory. “I think about hurricanes, blizzards, 9/11, blackouts — all sorts of big New York City events that took place and having to get the doors open or closed and take care of the staff,” Mr. Sullivan said.
“But I never could have pictured something like this,” he added. “We’re opening the doors to a completely different world.”