PARIS (Reuters) – The Louvre museum in Paris will reopen on July 6, it said on Friday, as France’s historical and cultural sites emerge gradually from the coronavirus lockdown.
In a statement, France’s most visited museum said a booking system and new signposting would offer visitors the maximum possible safety while they are in the building. They will be asked to wear a mask and keep social distancing.
“Even if it was possible to discover the Louvre’s treasures virtually during lockdown, nothing can replace the emotion of standing in front of a work of art; that is the raison d’etre of museums,” Louvre director Jean-Luc Martinez said.
Between March 12 and May 22, the Louvre’s website received 10.5 million visitors, compared to 14.1 million in all of 2019.
The number of virtual visitors per day to the site soared to about 330,000, with a peak of nearly 400,000, compared to about 40,000 visitors per day before the coronavirus crisis.
The Louvre also said the Tuileries garden in front of the museum would open on Sunday, but collective games and gatherings of more than 10 people would be banned.
Both had been closed on March 13.
The announcement follows new steps unveiled on Thursday by Prime Minister Edouard Philippe to ease the lockdown.
Culture Minister Franck Riester said in a statement France’s main historical sites and museums would reopen gradually between early June and mid-July, starting with Loire valley castle Chambord on June 5 and the Palace of Versailles on June 6.
In Paris, the Quai Branly Museum of indigenous civilisations will reopen on June 9, followed by the Musee d’Orsay, home of the French impressionists, on June 23.
On July 1, the Grand Palais will kick off a major exhibition on Pompeii and the Centre Pompidou’s exterior escalators will start lifting visitors to its modern art shows. The Picasso museum will re-open in the third week of July.
(Reporting by Christian Lowe and Benoit Van Overstraeten; Writing by Geert De Clercq; Editing by Mike Collett-White and Janet Lawrence)