Reopening after Covid-19

Sitges will reopen its museums soon, and I am personally very proud of what has been going on behind the scenes. If you could see us through a lens, you’d be more than surprised. From the day before we closed, Friday the 13th of March until soon, we are working for Wednesday the 3rd of June, there has been a critical yet vital transformation. I am sure that this has happened everywhere, but in our case, it has been surprising, even for me. 

I have worked in these museums for 25 years now. I have been witness to many changes, depending mainly on the director that is appointed for us, the sails have gone up or down, right or left, ripped or blown full stream. Politics for a place like ours are critical, it depends on who governs in Sitges and in Barcelona we will be delegated one director or another. Decisions that directly adjusts the ship to sink or swim, quite frustrating really, but this is how it is. Economy for us comes from the government, which is known as public, not from the visitors, as to keep a museum is costly. These days, culture is not a top priority, but if we play the cards right, who knows.

In Sitges, the Consortium for the Sitges Heritage was created just over 25 years ago, when I entered the company. It’s the best place to work, surrounded by art, next to the sea, a home with a great history to tell and share, I love my job, I like to put in plain words what this place is, and I really cherish my colleagues. It’s an energy, a good vibration, something. A long time ago, the museums had no air conditioning, no accessibility for wheelchairs, and no lifts. A few years ago Cau Ferrat and Maricel Museum, where two separate buildings, and it was decided they had to become one. Now our other museum, the Romantic Museum, is going through a similar transformation. It’s being remodelled and updated, it will receive any visitor that comes to see a remarkable, delightful house from the nineteenth century.

I must confess that the most important thing to understand the ride is the captain, and in the past, we’ve had a good number of them. Around every 5 years, to say an average, this captain gets substituted. We’ve had highs and lows, and now we’re on a high because we come from a low or, at least a very complicated reign with the previous predecessor. Previously, the director wanted a “temple on the hill” model of a museum. This type dispenses knowledge and prestige to the well-heeled and well-behaved, a model that is luckily for us all, outdated. Now we have a different director, and surprisingly for us, someone that trusts his team. He knows that a museum has to be careful not only with every cent spent on it, but also with its staff, and see that I am writing this about us. And now, waiting to open again, we are all working from home. A challenge for many of us around the world, the innovation that will make our heads explode. We are experiencing a stimulating cocooning stage, the worm, at last, is finally turning into a beautiful colourful butterfly, isn’t it exciting?! A flutterby! And not only virtual but real too, because the museums are the real thing.

Although we are providing content online, all the content we can think of, the online world is a poor substitute. The unique and analogue experience of visiting the Cau Ferrat or the Maricel, modern Stämpfly and the future Romantic cannot be changed. We are getting prepared. We will run the museum with diminished attendance and with the extra cost of safety precautions. Still, we know the importance of opening, we need to reboot the activity of the whole town of Sitges, they are waiting for our reopening. The museums will secure all the measures that are expected from an official place, it will be safe for you and for me, face masks, social distance, hydrogels, it is all getting ready for this day. I will be there and, little by little, we will go back to that sense of comfort and security. The Cau Ferrat eventually will recapture the familiar rhythm we know. There’s enough space and can welcome visitors maintaining the distance. Still, it is more than that, we need to provide that intangible benefit of calm in a time of trauma, and the encounter with art will always be a place of calm and safety. Opening the museum will mean that from September when schools open, we can go back to being a hub of education as we work towards getting over this Covid19 crisis.

Of course, it won’t be comfortable, with masks and hand sanitizers available; however, these measures will gradually be relaxed and restrictions lifted. We will take extra care of the most vulnerable, we will make sure there’s a time entry system. Sitges is a smallish town, out of the urban crowds, and not as busy as the large museums in Barcelona, so it’s our advantage.

Once this is set, the Museums of Sitges will put wind towards new museology, we’ll find all innovations for this new, global world. We have bumped into these new technologies during this pandemic and learned to use them. We’ll stay away from the “temple on the hill” model, as they liked us to be in the past. We are walking towards a new place, more egalitarian, unlimited, that is going to engage much more with the society, to its full diversity. We will offer that sense of continuity and belonging while at the same time, staying true to our essential values. Which means, in simple words, 

Pleased to see you again.

Susana Preston, guide and visitors attention for Sitges Museums

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