Harvard University’s network of museums is temporarily closing to the public beginning March 13 in an effort to reduce the number of people on campus and slow opportunities for the transmission of the COVID-19 virus.
The museums to close include the Harvard Art Museums (the Fogg, Busch-Reisinger, and Arthur M. Sackler museums); the four museums that make up the Harvard Museums of Science and Culture ( the Harvard Museum of Natural History, the Peabody Museum of Archaeology & Ethnology, the Harvard Semitic Museum, and the Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments galleries); the Fisher Museum at Harvard Forest; Arnold Arboretum, and others.
The closing is in line with the closing of many other Boston-area museums. It comes as the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Massachusetts continues to rise, with state officials putting the latest number at 108. The move also follows the closing of other prominent museums around the country, most notably New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Harvard Art Museums announced the closing in a joint statement with three of the area’s most prominent museums: the Museum of Fine Arts, the Institute of Contemporary Art, and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.
“This decision was made collaboratively as a response to ensure the health and safety of our staff, our visitors and our community,” the statement read. “The CDC has clearly communicated that one of the most effective measures for controlling the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is social distancing. Based on that recommendation, we feel it our ethical responsibility to put the common good ahead of any one individual or institution.
Notifications of closures of other Harvard museums have been made by emails from the individual museums, and are posted on their websites. In those letters to the community, Harvard’s museums said they will be assessing the situation over the next few weeks and reviewing options for when they will be able to re-open to the public.
“This decision has been carefully considered, as we know museums are community spaces,” the statements read. “We appreciate your understanding as we do our part to mitigate the spread of the virus in our community.”
The museums invited community members and the public to explore their online collections and resources. They can be found on their websites, which can be accessed here.
Closing the Harvard Art Museums to everyone but their own staff “was a tough decision to make, but as a community resource we ultimately need to prioritize the safety of our visitors, staff, students, and volunteers,” said Martha Tedeschi, the Elizabeth and John Moors Cabot Director of the Harvard Art Museums. “It’s critical that we all participate in the abatement of this epidemic.”
The Arnold Arboretum landscape remains open, but its Hunnewell Building and visitor center are closed. The Fisher Museum at Harvard Forest is closed, but the forest itself remains open to the public.
The announcement from Harvard’s museums comes on the heels of the University’s Tuesday morning decision to transition to remote learning and ask students not to return to campus following spring break.
The University has put out information and resources aimed at giving students, professors, and staff a hand with moving, remote learning, meetings, travel, financial aid, and other issues like booking travel.
In dining halls across campus, for example, Harvard College staff has helped dozens of students book their flights home. Yesterday they helped students book 49 flights. As of midday today, 68. That number was expected to rise.
To read more coverage, visit the Coronavirus Update website.