Like restaurants and other businesses that are dependent on a steady flow of customers, museums are feeling the impact of the coronavirus lockdown.
Likewise, the head of Russia’s renowned Hermitage Museum said this week the government should step in and ensure the survival of museums which are now struggling, The Global Times reported.
Since the introduction of a ban on gatherings of more than 50 people in mid-March, museums across Russia have gradually closed their doors to the public, the report said.
President Vladimir Putin then declared April a non-working month, encouraging Russians to stay home to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Hermitage chief Mikhail Piotrovsky said the museum had already lost half of its annual budget and was now in talks with the government in the hope to secure financial aid, the report said.
“The state must ensure the survival of culture,” Piotrovsky said during an online news conference.
Piotrovsky said that once the lockdown is over the museum would need about a month to prepare for a re-opening.
The museum was founded in 1764 under Empress Catherine the Great and features more than 3 million works of art and cultural artifacts.
Nearly 5 million people visited the Hermitage in 2019.
Since the beginning of the lockdown, the museum has been organizing virtual tours which have become very popular with art lovers, the report said.
Piotrovsky said museum staff also kept feeding its “famous” cats that live there and hunt for mice and rats.
Cats first found a home at the Hermitage long before it became a museum open to the public in the 1850s.
They are now hugely popular with tourists who snap up souvenirs and postcards adorned with cat pictures on sale in the museum’s shops.
According to NBC News, the museum’s YouTube channel featured a 15-minute “hang out” with the cats in their basement hideout, assuring viewers that all was well, amid a nation-wide coronavirus home isolation order.
“The Hermitage cats convey their greetings and meow-meow!” the museum wrote in the video description. “Everything is fine with them. They are looked after, petted, fed, and sometimes even given all kinds of treats!”
The cats have a press secretary and assistant who usually cares for them. But, with most employees working from home, the job has been left to the Museum Security Service, who can be seen in the video.