Show me the Monet! Warsaw’s Royal Castle leads the way in bringing museums out of the cold
The Royal Castle in Warsaw opened its doors to visitors today for the first time since the country was put into deepfreeze due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The castle is the first major museum in Poland to welcome visitors after the museum sector got a green light from the government to restart.
The go-ahead come 53 days after the castle closed its doors in March and is part of the second stage of what the government is calling ‘defrosting the economy’.
This stage of the government’s epidemic exit strategy envisages the partial reopening of museums, art galleries, libraries and archives from May 4.
The relaxation does not impose a requirement to reopen immediately. The final decision when to open will be made by the director of each institution in consultation with the local health inspector.
Minister of Culture Piotr Gliński during the symbolic opening of the castle gate under the Clock Tower offered hope to the beleaguered sector saying that “we should make use of our cultural assets wherever possible.”
However, he warned that social distancing rules would still have to apply and that hygiene regimes would remain in place.
“This new normality,” he said, “is also a new normality for Polish culture.”
He stressed that as in the case of shops and supermarkets the number of people per square metre of an exhibition will be limited.
In line with these rules, castle staff have prepared a truncated route for visitors, who will be limited to 100 people per hour.
The new route, which the castle is calling the Royal Route, squeezes most of the highlights into the pruned tour.
Visitors will be able to the Canaletto Room, the Throne Room and the Royal private chambers.
However, the jewels in the crown of the castle’s collection, the two Rembrandt oils – Girl in a Picture Frame and A Scholar at his Writing Table – still remain behind closed doors.
Castle staff told TFN that due to their location in the castle away from the main visiting route it was logistically impossible to include them and maintain hygiene requirements.
While the partial opening today of the Royal Castle in Warsaw is symbolic of the reawakening of the whole cultural sector in Poland, other museums and institutions are taking more time before they open their doors.
Elsewhere in Warsaw, the National Museum said that it is preparing to reopen. “We are striving to make our collections available to the public as soon as possible, so we are working on new visiting regulations” it said.
The Museum of the History of Polish Jews POLIN also did not open today. POLIN’s crisis management team said that safety of visitors and employees is crucial. It added that the multimedia character of the permanent exhibition creates a number of specific challenges.
A spokesperson for the Copernicus Science Centre said: “We are considering various options, but we are not yet able to declare a specific date”. However the garden on the centre’s roof opened on Friday.
Wilanów Palace has said that its reopening will be dependent on guidelines from sanitary authorities.
In Kraków, people will now be able to visit Wawel Hill as well as the courtyard of the Royal Castle and the gardens.
The National Museum in Krakow will gradually open its branches. The gallery of nineteenth century art in the Cloth Hall will be the first to opened to the public by mid-May at the latest.
The MOCAK Museum of Contemporary Art in Kraków plans to reopen on May 12. The museum's library and café will remain closed until further notice,' the museum said.
In Łódź, the Museum of Art will reopen on May 12. It plans to reduce the opening hours from eight to six. To protect ticket sellers, plexiglass covers will be installed at service counters. A visitor limit of up to 10 people will apply on one exhibition floor and visitors at the entrance to the museum will have to use hand disinfectant.
The Auschwitz Museum will remain closed at least until the end of June. The beginning of July is the earliest possible date of opening, its press department said.