The Metropolitan Museum of Art reopened its doors to the public on Aug. 29.
The museum had been closed since Mar. 13, a day after Mayor Bill de Blasio declared New York City a state of emergency, amidst the surging coronavirus cases. This would be the first time the Met has ever been closed for more than three days in over a century.
Governor Cuomo gave museums and other attractions the green-light to reopen on Aug. 24, which was included on the checklist of New York City’s Phase 4 of re-opening. Despite the uncertainty surrounding its re-opening, the Met has been long preparing for the arrival of museum-goers.
Daniel H. Weiss, the Met president and CEO, highlighted the museum’s plan to re-open their famed Fifth Ave location on May. 19, in an announcement on the museum’s website.
“The safety of our staff and visitors remains our greatest concern,” Weiss said in the statement. “Perhaps now more than ever the Museum can serve as a reminder of the power of the human spirit and the capacity of art to bring comfort, inspire resilience, and help us better understand each other and the world around us.”
With mandatory temperature checks, face coverings, multiple hand sanitizer stations throughout the museum and signs to remain socially distant, New Yorkers see this iconic city landmark returning as a sign of normalcy and a testament to their resilience.
Japanese artist Yoko Ono, designed two banners for their re-opening that read “DREAM” and “TOGETHER”, which are displayed at their front entrance. The feeling of community is what Will Sullivan, Head of Visitor Experience at the MET, says was so special about the planning of re-opening the Met, especially alongside other museums.
“That was something that was wonderful to be able to meet my peers across town and have these relationships ongoing,” he said. “I think we’ll [museums] be a stronger sector as a result of that.”
The Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art are two New York City museums that will also open alongside the Met. But the return of the MET holds much excitement as the re-opening has fallen on the Met’s 150th year anniversary.
Even though the museum was closed on Apr. 13, the exact date of its founding—there is still an exhibit to commemorate it, just in time for the museum’s debut.
“Making the Met, 1870-2020” is a new exhibition that celebrates 150 years of the museum’s rich history and contains works such as fan favorite art pieces as well as never before seen photos.
Exploring galleries they have never been to or visiting new exhibitions is why many New Yorkers have been so eager to get back to museums. But for others, it was the first time in a long time they recognized their city.
“It was the first thing in six months I could do to kind of remind me of the old New York,” Michelle Cho, a medical student at New York Medical College, said.
Cho contracted COVID-19 back in March and still hasn’t regained her sense of smell or taste.
She visited the Met on Sep. 6, and admits that the opening of the city and all of it’s attractions are great, but still makes her a little hesitant.
“I’m in this gray area,” Cho said. “Being super happy that the city’s coming back to normal, but also nervous.”
However, she insists that the Met hasn’t seen the last of her.
“I would love to go back,” she said. “I feel like I could spend a lot more time there.”
Visitors and staff alike agree that the city that never sleeps is slowly waking back up. Even though museums suffered closures and revenue losses, the spirit of New Yorkers has helped rebuild these beloved landmarks.
Sullivan was there on the first day of the Met reopening and recounts the feeling of opening the doors.
“I immediately picked up from New Yorkers, that we’re not done yet,” he said. “There’s a spirit in New York to get beyond this.”