London Transport Museum

Shops and zoos set for relaunch as museums left in the dark over future

Article: David Styles | All images: © Covent Garden, London

Tourist hotspots such as Covent Garden will be welcoming the public to small luxury boutiques from Monday, while the neighbouring London Transport Museum remains unable to generate vital visitor income.

Business secretary Alok Sharma has confirmed that shops, department stores and shopping centres – all indoor spaces with limited room for people to roam – can reopen from Monday 15th June, “provided they put in place the necessary steps to keep their workers and customers safe”.

This, Sharma states, is the “latest step in the careful restarting of the economy and will enable high streets up and down the country to spring back to life”.

As yet, no date has been confirmed to enable museums and galleries to follow this Tigger style financial recovery.

After much public pressure, zoos and safari parks have now been given the green light to welcome visitors. A relatable experience for so many museums, these sites have been living on their nerves while awaiting news about when they can bring essential funds back into their businesses.

With these open-air visitor attractions and indoor retail units deemed safe, why not museums?

A primary example of the disconnect in the government’s stance is evident at Covent Garden, where a raft of shops will be reopening on Monday while their neighbour, London Transport Museum, will remain shut.

The likes of Chanel, Charlotte Tilbury, Dior and Tiffany & Co. will all welcome shoppers again, assuming their co-operation with measures such as marked queuing systems, social distancing signage and hand sanitiser being made available.

A member of Covent Garden's cleaning and security team prepares the estate to welcome back visitors from Monday 15th June

Covent Garden’s renowned Market Building will also be equipped with a new one-way system to minimise the risk to public health. Cleaning practices, which have been ramped up in preparation for next week, will be stepped up even further once restaurants are given the all clear to reopen. A frequently sanitised seating area will then be launched to allow eateries to go al fresco.

It’s certainly not the case that museums are any more casual about Covid safety measures than their retail counterparts. London Transport Museum has, for example, been “putting in place social distancing measures, enhanced cleaning, updated signage, pre-visit content and timed tickets to help people feel welcome and stay safe,” explains its director, Sam Mullins OBE.

“We are also exploring how our popular programme of events and family activities can be adapted for people to enjoy not just at our Covent Garden Museum, but also our Depot in Acton,” Mullins adds.

“We are awaiting Government and public health guidelines on when cultural attractions and heritage sites can reopen and look forward to welcoming people back to the Museum as soon as it’s safe to do so.” The Museum will keep visitors updated on development via its blog.

Despite the best efforts of London Transport Museum and countless other venues, exploring an exhibition remains a frivolity too far. Picking up the latest £2,400 Dior cocktail dress for all the summer parties that will inevitably be postponed due to the pandemic is, however, far more essential.