The Harvard Art Museums will likely stay closed for “most or all” of the spring semester, Museums Director Martha Tedeschi wrote in an email to the museum’s supporters Friday.
Her email comes during a nationwide surge in Covid-19 cases and a spike in the Boston area.
“We’re in a big spike, and now there’s a new strain of Covid, which is highly contagious – and so Harvard, obviously, is making very careful decisions,” Tedeschi said in an interview Saturday.
“Our continued collaboration and planning with university leadership to keep students, campus, and community safe will help us determine next steps over the course of this year,” she wrote in the email.
The Museums — which include the Fogg Museum, the Busch-Reisinger Museum, and the Arthur M. Sackler Museum — shut their doors in March 2020, along with most other Harvard institutions. In September, Tedeschi announced the Museums would remain closed through the end of the calendar year, and would re-open “pending university approval and guidance.”
Though the Museums remain closed to the public, they will continue to allow “essential museum business,” to take place in person, Tedeschi said in the interview. In-person operations include art conservation, gallery rearrangement, and research. Tedeschi said 25 percent of the Museum’s employees qualify for in-person work.
In March, the Covid pandemic forced the Museums to find new ways to make their collections and expertise available to the public, Tedeschi said.
“As a public institution, we’re usually in the business of bringing people from all over the place to the campus,” she said. “We suddenly realized that if we wanted to stay open, we had to stay open in a different way.”
The Museums created virtual programming, including discussions with curators, remote student-guided tours of the collections, and activities for children. Virtual programming has drawn greater attendance than previous in-person events, per Tedeschi.
“When we reopen, we’re going to have to find a way to mesh our virtual audience with our physical audience,” she said.
Tedeschi wrote in the email that museum staff are excited to open the galleries to the public as soon as it is deemed safe.
“We are truly exhilarated by the prospect of inviting visitors back to the museums as soon as we can do so safely,” she wrote.