For the first time since early March, I bought a ticket for an exhibition last week. And weirdly, the experience wasn’t as weird as I was expecting. I bought a timed entry ticket the night before and remembered my mask. I was greeted outside the Barbican’s entrance and given a run-through of the direction to go and how the exhibition worked. Beyond that, the exhibition felt as normal. Everyone wore masks, of course – which now also feels normal.
There were arrows on the floor to guide people through the exhibition, but really that only felt like a formalization of a rule that’s always been there. In one respect, I liked the arrows as reassurance that I hadn’t missed any room or section of the exhibition. Frustrations with other visitors hovering too long were the same, but now, at least justified. At the end, I did rush past the tiny café and shop area, feeling that I was pushing my luck for spending that length of time indoors with strangers already.
While in the exhibition, I generally felt safe, like there was enough distance between me and others. Although it felt well-attended, I also didn’t struggle to find a space in every room for my own 2-meter bubble. Even a week before mask requirements came into effect in museums, I didn’t notice a single person not wearing one. As a result, my time in the exhibition was much less anxiety-provoking than the bus trip there.
Michael Dixon, the director of the Natural History Museum in London has said, “When people visit the museum over the next few months they are going to get a fantastic VIP experience because they will be able to see things without so many people around them,