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Mumbai: As Mumbai regains its pace, and places begin to reopen, the 99-year-old iconic museum, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS), at Fort, is all set to reopen its doors for visitors on Tuesday, 16 February 2021, after being shut for 11 months, due to COVID-19 induced restrictions.

Sabyasachi Mukherjee, the Director-General of CSMVS told News18, “We are delighted to open the CSMVS for the public from tomorrow. The museum will be open daily from 10 am to 3 pm. We have discounted tickets as we restart the opening in a phased manner, and all our safety measures are in place to welcome people back to their city’s museum.”

The main building of the museum, which is currently undergoing renovation, will remain closed. However, the Children’s Museum, the natural history section, Karl khandalavala gallery, as well as the money and jewelry gallery, will be open from tomorrow onwards. The textile gallery is also expected to reopen soon.

The museum authorities said that the decision to half ticket prices was made because the entire museum is not opening at one go. Therefore, they wanted to balance out what is being offered to visitors with what is being charged. Apart from that, they also wanted to motivate more people to visit the museum.

Mukherjee said, “I encourage the people of Mumbai to come with their families, enjoy our galleries and relax in our open spaces after the challenging and difficult year that they had in 2020.”

It has been a difficult year not only for the patrons of art and lovers of the museum but also for those who work in galleries and museums.

“Our revenues come entirely from ticket sales and sponsorships. So obviously, those aspects suffered because of the pandemic,” pointed out Joyoti Roy, Head of Strategy and Marketing at CSMVS.

“All our staff members volunteered to take reduced salaries, and that way we were able to hold out for a longer period of time. For a historic property such as ours, maintenance and conservation were the main causes of concerns during the initial lockdown period. However, our officials who live on-campus took care of it. Once transportation reopened our senior curators began coming in different shifts to conserve the various collections,” Roy added.

The CSMVS officials also organised an adoption drive during the pandemic, under which, patrons and sponsors could adopt an object or collection or a particular gallery of the museum for a period of time. That drive helped in keeping the conservation work ongoing.

Roy explained that the decision to reopen had been made after several trials to see how the logistics and infrastructural set-up of the museum can support COVID-19 related safety guidelines.

“Since we are one of the major historical places in town, we have been cautious, as a public institution, to reopen with responsibility. We are lucky to have huge open spaces because that helped us to tweak our visiting norms to ensure that there is no overcrowding inside the building,” said Roy.

In the past few months, the museum has organised smaller projects to finetune their preparations for reopening. The lawn of the museum was opened up for free every day, and 2-hour slots were given to one family at a time so that they can enjoy picnics there. They also hosted an event called Astronomy as a part of Kala Ghoda festival, and during that event, they recalibrated their visitors’ routes to incorporate social distancing measures.

“In the last three months, we have taken time to prep ourselves, run some test drives, and now we are all set up to reopen. Only six galleries will open for now, and we are also trying to start online ticketing to make the process easier for visitors. We made sure that there is enough signage that people distance themselves from one another. We have put markers inside galleries to facilitate a unilateral movement of visitors because we want to avoid instances where people constantly face one another or unintentionally run into each other,” said Roy, and added that despite all the measures undertaken they would also have gallery officials patrol each gallery to ensure that all rules are strictly followed and no space is overcrowded.

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