Natural History Museum prepares exhibits for reopening

Conservation work is under way at the Natural History Museum on exhibits including its blue whale skeleton ahead of the venue’s reopening.

The London museum is set to welcome back visitors on August 5 following months of closure.

Staff at the museum have been preparing by cleaning skeletons and displays and laying out signs explaining new social distancing measures.

The museum’s head of conservation Lorraine Cornish said that “quite a lot of dust” had accumulated on exhibits while the venue was closed because of coronavirus.

Coronavirus – Tue Jul 28, 2020
Nikki Harrison was one of the conservationists cleaning Hope (Yui Mok/PA)

Staff have been cleaning the 25.2 metre-long blue whale skeleton named Hope, which is suspended in the entrance to the museum.

They are also analysing the condition of the other objects on display.

“We write a report, like a medical report, on how they are doing, any cracks or anything else we need to deal with,” said Ms Cornish.

“We have spent weeks planning for visitors to come back in and we want to make our specimens really stand out in terms of being clean and being able to be enjoyed by the public.”

Coronavirus – Tue Jul 28, 2020
The skeleton dominates the entrance to the museum (Yui Mok/PA)

Clare Matterson, the Natural History Museum’s executive director of engagement, said visitors will have a “really different” experience to the one they may have had before the lockdown because of a decrease in visitor numbers.

The venue’s capacity will be reduced to around 15% of what it was previously.

“Normally it would be very, very full, very bustling, but actually because we are limiting the number of visitors, you will actually feel that you have got the museum to yourself,” she said.

“In this wonderful, airy cathedral of nature you will have a very special experience.”

Coronavirus – Tue Jul 28, 2020
Anna Fenlon made sure the giraffes got a clean too (Yui Mok/PA)

She said the vast size of the museum means implementing social distancing measures will be relatively easy.

Coronavirus has meant museums are facing a “really difficult time financially”, she said, adding the museum is grateful for the support it has received from the Government.

“All of us, we are still having to open up, get our shops going, get our cafe going and we are then just going to hope that we can stay open and keep going for the future,” she said.

Venues such as the Tate galleries and The National Gallery have already welcomed back visitors.

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