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Harvard’s Museums to Close in Response to Coronavirus Outbreak

Due to the outbreak of coronavirus across the globe, many museums at Harvard University have decided to close to the public until it is deemed safe to reopen.
Due to the outbreak of coronavirus across the globe, many museums at Harvard University have decided to close to the public until it is deemed safe to reopen. By Ryan N. Gajarawala
By Ellen M. Burstein, Crimson Staff Writer

Museums affiliated with Harvard University announced that they will close “until further notice” in response to the coronavirus outbreak that has shuttered much of the University’s campus.

At least five museums, including the Harvard Art Museums, the Harvard Museum of Natural History, the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, the Harvard Semitic Museum, and the Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments, sent mass emails Thursday announcing the decision to close.

“This decision has been carefully considered, as we know museums are community spaces,” the museums wrote.

The email encouraged would-be visitors to explore the museum’s online classes in order “to continue to provide opportunities for learning and reflection.”

In an unprecedented move, Harvard administrators announced in emails Tuesday morning that classes will be held online following spring break, beginning March 23. Most students will also be required to vacate campus by 5 p.m. on Sunday, March 15, unless they successfully petition to remain in residence.

Governor Charlie D. Baker ’79 declared a state of emergency in Massachusetts on Tuesday in response to the ongoing outbreak. As of Wednesday, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health had confirmed at least 95 cases in the state.

The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston also announced in an email to subscribers that it will remain closed after Thursday “for up to 30 days.” The Institute of Contemporary Art and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum — both also in Boston — will likewise close Friday.

Paul D. Tamburro ’21, a senior guide at the Harvard Art Museums, wrote in an email that the museum’s closure “drove home the severity of the crisis we’re currently facing.”

Tamburro, a former Crimson news editor who has worked at the museum for a year and a half, added that he supported the decision to close.

“I am deeply sad that I won’t be able to give tours or see some of my favorite works for several months, but I think this is the right call in the end,” Tamburro wrote.

—Staff writer Ellen M. Burstein can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @ellenburstein.

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