Museums see drop in visitor numbers amid COVID-19 pandemic

A visitor at the National Palace Museum. (CNA file photo)

TAIPEI (CNA) — Museums around Taiwan have seen a drop in visitor numbers because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, especially after the government’s issuance of social distancing guidelines in late March.

Taiwan’s health authorities issued advice against indoor gatherings of 100 people or more March 25, which was soon followed by museums and other indoor public venues across the country.

Further advice was issued April 1 for people not to attend social evets such as concerts, exhibitions and sports events, and suggested that people keep a distance of 1.5 meters from each other indoors or one meter outdoors. People wearing masks are exempt from the distance guidelines.

The National Palace Museum, one of Taiwan’s top tourist attractions, has followed the advice, capping the total amount of visitors in all of its galleries at 100.

The museum’s northern branch in Taipei, which had already reduced its opening hours since Feb. 14, said Monday that the number of visitors had dropped from the usual 7,000-8,000 per day to just a few hundred.

The museum also advises visitors to wear a face mask, although this is not mandatory, it said.

The museum’s southern branch in Chiayi County, meanwhile, has taken most of the same measures, but its cap is set by a ratio of the number of people to the amount of floor space, the museum said. The cap is set at between 20 and 50 people per exhibition.

The southern branch’s latest published visitor numbers are from February, which showed a drop to 45,702 from 94,656 a month earlier, according to its website.

“One Minute in Taipei” by Austrian artist Erwin Wurm. (Photo courtesy of the Taipei Fine Arts Museum)

Meanwhile, the Taipei Fine Arts Museum said the number of its visitors, usually around 1,000 daily, had dropped 15 percent-20 percent in February and March, while the latest figure in early April further declined to around 500.

Apart from following the government advice, wearing a mask is mandatory under the rules set for all municipal venues and facilities under the Taipei City government, the museum added.

The pandemic has also affected its current and future exhibitions. In an earlier press release, the museum said an exhibition of French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson’s work has had to be postponed due to France’s tightened border controls.

One of the museum’s current events, “One Minute in Taipei” by Austrian artist Erwin Wurm, has also been modified and visitor interaction with the work has been suspended, it said.

In Tainan, the privately run Chimei Museum announced Monday that it will be closed between Monday and Wednesday every week, instead of just Wednesday, until at least May 31.

The museum said it saw a year-on-year 60 percent drop in visitor numbers in March, from around 2,400 per day in 2019 to roughly 900 per day this year.

Chimei Museum has also suspended guided tours and the interactive elements of its exhibits, and requires all visitors to wear a mask indoors.

“Beyond the Shadows” exhibition at the Chimei Museum. (CNA file photo)