South Ken ‘culture quarter’ reopens in August

The three main national museums in South Kensington have agree a staggered programme of reopening through August, with shorter opening hours for visits as they have never been before.

But the Natural History Museum (NHM), Science Museum and Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A) are all expecting greatly reduced visitor numbers, perhaps as little as 20% of the norm for this time. The first major museum to reopen on July 8 was the National Gallery to the east in Trafalgar Square, seven days a week from 11 to 4 (until 9pm on Fridays).

Main image shows a busy Exhibition Road, the heart of South Kensington’s ‘Cultural Quarter’, with the V&A on the right and the Natural History and Science Museums on the left

At a press conference given by the three museums’ directors today they announced that the NHM will be the first of the Exhibition Road-centred institutions opening from August 5 at 11am until 6pm on Wednesday to Sunday; the V&A will open its ground level on August 6 from Thursday to Sunday at 11-6, adding the first and second floors on August 27 for the Bank Holiday weekend; and the Science Museum opens on August 19 initially seven days a week from 10 to 6. The three have agreed to stagger opening dates and times to ease footfall in the area and passenger flow at nearby Underground stations.

They have worked closely with local authorities and businesses in the neighbourhood, said the Science Museum’s Sir Ian Blatchford, to stagger opening dates and times to reduce footfall on Exhibition Road and ease visitor flow at nearby underground stations. He added that the £1.57bn rescue fund announced by the Treasury last week meant financial worries were relieved for the time being and congratulated the government: "They have listened to what we have had to say" he said.

All visits will have to be pre-booked with times ticketing and public areas will be strictly marked off to ensure social distancing with hand-sanitisers strategically placed. The wearing of facemasks will be encouraged though not compulsory, in accordance with government guidelines. “We want you to sanitise your hands but not your experience” said V&A director Tristram Hunt. The V&A is to introduce recommended trails to make social distancing easier. 

Although lockdown has kept the public away from national treasures for four months, the unprecedented period has had its benefits, according to the NHM’s Sir Michael Dixon. “We have been able to develop new ideas, new concepts and more innovation for exhibitions coming up” he said.

 

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