An exploration of life under lockdown will be at the heart of the reopening of The Beaney House of Art of Knowledge.
The Beaney will open its doors for the first time since closing in March on Tuesday 21 July.
At the beginning of lockdown, the team set up a diary to document the experiences of people living, working and studying in the district under the government-imposed restrictions.
From Crisis Hub staff and volunteers to teachers and pupils returning to school, the diary has had contributors from all walks of life.
The entries have been turned into a poem written by poet Anthony Anaxagorou.
And, instead of the usual keep-your-distance markers we have all become accustomed to seeing, the poem has been interpreted by visual artist Lucy Oram to turn it into social distancing waymarkers that guide people around the museum.
The words and visuals track the highs and lows of lockdown as visitors move through the city’s collection of art and artefacts.
The project is a collaboration with the Wise Words initiative and is part of The Beaney’s health and wellbeing work paid for by Arts Council England.
Both the diary and poem will become part of the city’s social history collection at the museum to be preserved for future generations.
Museums and Cultural Programme Director Michelle Moubarak said: “The diary is so moving and I am delighted with Anthony and Lucy’s interpretation of the work.
“We felt it was really important to help people explore the extraordinary experience that was lockdown and to give them a way to talk about and process what has been happening around us.”
British-born Cypriot poet Anthony Anaxagorou said: “It felt that maybe I too needed to write this for my own peace of mind, so thank you for giving me the opportunity.”
The museum and galleries will open with a one-way system around the building with the main entrance via Best Lane only and with the exit into the High Street. The walk will be accompanied by a free family-friendly gallery trail to help guests get the most out of their visit.
Other changes include visits being split into hour-long sessions to manage the number of people in the building.
Booking in advance is recommended but people can book in on arrival to the next available session, subject to availability.
You can book online via the Beaney’s Plan Your Visit webpage at thebeaney.co.uk/plan-your-visit.
Details will be requested for track and trace purposes. Entry remains free of charge but donations are encouraged.
Initially, the café and toilets will remain closed along with some other services.
The library section of the building, which is run by Kent County Council, will be re-opening in early August with a date to be confirmed soon.
Council Leader Cllr Rob Thomas said: “Our brilliant staff, many of whom worked at the Crisis Hub during lockdown, have put everything into making sure visitors can return with confidence, while being able to enjoy as much of the museum’s displays and galleries as possible.
“It is the latest step of the reopening of the city centre and we can’t wait to get going and welcome people back to this wonderful historic building.”
And in further good news, the scaffolding that has been on the front of the Beaney since November last year to allow repairs to the building’s façade will shortly be removed.
The £230,000 project included the major restoration of mosaic panels, woodwork repairs, gutter repairs, the repinning of a section of the top window, new bird spikes and netting and a complete clean of the whole façade.
For information on the Beaney’s reopening and what to expect, read the Beaney’s Visitor FAQ’s at thebeaney.co.uk/visitor-faqs.
The council is working towards reopening the Roman Museum in early August.