Philadelphia Museum of Art to reopen in September

Sybil T. Mann

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The Philadelphia Museum of Art plans to reopen its doors to the public on September 6, almost six months after it closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Museum leaders say they also will open to members on September 3 through 5. The Rodin Museum, the small sculptural museum and garden managed by the PMA opposite the Ben Franklin Parkway, will also reopen on the same schedule.

The PMA is the last major cultural institution along or near the Parkway to announce an opening date. The museum of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, on North Broad Street, announced on July 1 it will reopen on September 12.

Like most museums, the PMA will reopen with a roster of safety precautions to avoid spreading COVID-19: timed ticketing, enforced 6-foot social distancing between parties, reduced hours, and a reduced number of visitors. They will limit visitors to 50% of capacity, which translates into between 1,500 and 1,700 per day. 

Only the north entrance will be open, just off Kelly Drive, where visitors will have their body temperatures scanned upon entry. The restaurant and café will remain closed. The gift shop will allow a limited number of people inside.

During the shutdown, the museum has not been idle. Construction of a major interior expansion, designed by architect Frank Gehry, has been ongoing, which digs into the footprint of the iconic building to carve out more than 20,000 additional square feet of exhibition space and restore a long-unused underground entrance tunnel.

The construction was originally scheduled to be completed by the fall of 2020. It has been pushed to early 2021.

Also during the museum shutdown, the staff was reduced by furloughs and layoffs. Some furloughed staff will come back to work for the reopening.

During the shutdown, about 200 staff members drove a successful campaign to form a labor union, one of the largest single bargaining units at any American museum.

The union has been very vocal on safety protocols and job security during the pandemic. Employees voted in the union last week. Union leaders are currently in a 7-day cooling-off period before starting talks with management, so the unit has not yet engaged management over its reopening plan. Union members had some positive things to say about the plan, but want more information.

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