The British Museum is to reopen its Greek galleries to the general public on 13 December after a full yr of closure as a result of pandemic and issues linked to crumbling infrastructure. The shoddy state of the galleries, which home the celebrated marble sculptures faraway from the Parthenon, has fuelled Greek calls for for his or her restitution.
In compliance with the UK lockdown, the museum shut on 16 December 2020 and reopened on 17 Could, however the Greek galleries remained closed to permit for delayed routine surveillance work. Then, after heavy rain in July, a roof leak in gallery 17—which incorporates the Nereid monument—compelled the museum to maintain all its Greek galleries closed pending roof repairs due to social distancing guidelines and the introduction of a brand new, one-way customer route by the museum. For instance, Gallery 17 is the one entry level to the Parthenon sculptures in gallery 18.
The poor situation of the Greek rooms and neighbouring Assyrian galleries has been famous many occasions. In 2018, Greek tv broadcast pictures of water dripping into the Parthenon Marbles gallery, with the Greek tradition minister, Lina Mendoni, responding that it “reinforces Greece’s rightful demand for the sculptures’ everlasting return to Athens”. The leak was brought on by a 40-year-old glass ceiling pane cracking, a museum spokesperson says. “Such cracks are as a consequence of common put on and tear, which is predicted over time in an outdated and historic constructing. This was addressed in 2018 and the glass was changed with new fixings.” Not one of the sculptures have been broken, the museum says.
In the meantime, The Artwork Newspaper has recorded leaks within the Assyrian galleries a number of occasions. Most just lately, on 18 October, an historic Assyrian frieze in gallery 7 was seen lined in plastic. The spokesperson says: “There was a defective actuator on the window, which has been changed. Rainfall on to this roof has been redirected to alleviate volumes of water skilled throughout heavy rainfall. The problems have been handled however the plastic is staying in place as a precaution.” In gallery 10 subsequent door, the ground tiles seem stained and cracked.
A serious problem is that “there isn’t a total encompassing design” to the Greek and Assyrian galleries, says Jonathan Williams, the museum’s deputy director. “You’ve got a collection of advanced rooms added at completely different occasions and all needing completely different ranges and sorts of upkeep brought on by the passage of time and the consequences of the climate,” he says.
Grants for important repairs
In March 2020, the Nationwide Audit Workplace revealed a report on the upkeep wants of the 15 museums sponsored by the UK Division for Digital, Tradition, Media and Sport (DCMS), together with the British Museum. This famous that grant-in-aid subsidies for all of the museums fell by 20% when adjusted for inflation between 2010/11 (£361m) and 2018/19 (£333m).
Whereas the museums have ramped up fund-raising from company and personal sponsors, the report notes that these donors “usually have situations connected [to their gifts]…they typically need to help seen initiatives resembling new galleries. Museums are subsequently reliant on [DCMS funding for] non-public-facing operations, resembling property upkeep and the maintenance of core infrastructure resembling roofs.”
In line with the report, the British Museum requested £48.4m for upkeep over the 5 years from 2016/17 to 2020/21 and acquired £21.3m. In April 2019, DCMS allotted the museum a further £12m from a brand new upkeep fund set as much as help pressing repairs. In March 2020, the federal government’s nationwide museums upkeep fund gave it an extra £5m. In July, it acquired £9.8m for important upkeep delayed by the pandemic—£2.7m of which is earmarked for the material and roofs of galleries—from DCMS’s £60m Public Our bodies Infrastructure Fund. The museum is now ready to listen to how a lot it’ll get from the Treasury’s £300m funding over three years in property upkeep for arm’s-length cultural our bodies, introduced as a part of the autumn 2021 finances in October.
Beneath its director Hartwig Fischer, the British Museum is drawing up a complete masterplan which can overhaul all of its galleries and redisplay all of its collections, however it’ll take a long time to boost funds for and implement the venture. The primary stage is a £64m storage and analysis facility in Berkshire in partnership with the College of Studying, as a consequence of open in 2024.
So, it will likely be a number of years earlier than the museum is ready to flip its consideration to upgrading the Greek and Assyrian galleries. Till then, it’ll carry out “localised repairs” as required. “There will probably be common interventions to protect the constructing,” says the spokesperson, including that that is “not a long-term answer”. The museum is “in dialogue with DCMS concerning the want for rather more important capital funding within the constructing over the approaching years”.