Museums, Galleries, Libraries Reopen in Australia

May 21, 2020 Updated: May 21, 2020

As Australia begins to come out of lockdown and conversations shift from ‘Stay Home’ to ‘Stay Safe’ there is is a lot to look forward to. Restaurants are open again and interstate holidays are no longer just a dream.

In addition to food and travel, cultural activities are set for an exciting return as the nation allows the reopening of art galleries, libraries, and museums.

New South Wales (NSW) is the first state to allow cultural institutions such as museums, galleries, and libraries to reopen from June 1, as the government works to restart the economy after its battering by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, commonly known as novel coronavirus.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian cautiously invited cultural institutions and libraries to reopen with strict new protocols in place.

“NSW is home to some of Australia’s best art galleries and museums and I look forward to them reopening to the public,” Berejiklian said in a statement on May 20.

The Art Gallery of NSW (AGNSW) will be one of the first cultural institutions to open its doors.

Shortly after Berejiklian’s statement, AGNSW wrote on Twitter: “Gallery to re-open on 1 June 2020!”

From Monday, June 1, AGNSW visitors will be able to see a number of exhibitions for free including the 22nd Biennale of Sydney: NIRIN, “Shadow Catchers,” “Under the Stars,” and “Some Mysterious Process,” a new exhibition curated by AGNSW Director, Michael Brand.

Other galleries and museums that will soon open their physical doors include the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory in Darwin, the Museum of Central Australia, and Megafauna Central in Alice Springs, and Art Gallery of South Australia.


Libraries have also been given the green light in NSW, with the Australian Capital Territory, and Victoria soon to follow.

“Libraries play an important role in our local communities, providing a safe space for learning and reading and I know many will be pleased to see them reopen,” Berejiklian said.

The State Library of NSW is one of the first libraries to open in the nation and will make a slow transition to being a fully functioning library so that it could adequately comply with health guidelines.

“We will be introducing an online booking system, with two x 3.5 hour sessions each day. This system will allow us to best manage our capacity and undertake a full clean between each session,” State Librarian John Vallance said in a statement.

“What has become abundantly clear over these past eight weeks is just how loved and valued libraries are, and this time apart has been tough on all of us,” Vallance said.

“Since the shutdown thousands of people have connected with their State and public libraries online for the first time, with over 20,000 new memberships recorded.”

Timed ticketing, limited visitor capacity, and other hygiene measures are part of the guidelines for reopening cultural institutions in a COVID-19 safe way, not dissimilar to those required in restaurants and other public spaces. In addition, events will be requiring prepaid tickets, and groups and tours are also put on hold.

Performing Arts Venues

Epoch Times Photo
Sydney Opera House concert hall on January 29. (Brook Mitchell/Getty Images)

While art museums welcome back the public, performing arts and live music venues must wait longer due to the nature of their spaces.

“Museums and art galleries are better placed to manage social distancing compared to theatres, given that audiences are fluid in the space; as larger venues, they can spread audiences out more effectively,” Gina Fairley said on ArtsHub.

The Sydney Opera House is still playing to an empty house while the halls remain closed, but a newly built virtual stage is broadcasting shows from the inside.

Arts Centre Melbourne remains closed until June 30, and Geelong Arts Centre, Adelaide Town Hall, Canberra Theatre Centre, and other venues are yet to make announcements.