MFA Reopening: Visiting During COVID-19

Last weekend I finally visited the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic began. The MFA reopened on September 26th, 2020, though it’s taken me a few months to get around to going. I’ve been adjusting to college as a freshman and attempting to navigate a new school during a pandemic, so let’s just say I haven’t exactly had much down time to make use of. 

When I heard a brand new Monet exhibit was opening, I decided it was time to get tickets. I knew the website would get lots of traffic when the tickets for November went on sale, so I planned accordingly and loaded it as soon as I could, at 10 a.m. sharp.

Perhaps it was my questionable Northeastern wifi, but the website was deathly slow and I could get practically nothing to load. I’d add tickets to my cart, and the 20 minute timer to hold my tickets and check out would begin, and it kept counting down while none of the pages loaded. I could never get to checkout and the timer would run out and let go of my tickets. It was a severely aggravating cycle. Every time I tried, the same thing happened. I decided to call the ticket office number instead and waited on hold for probably 45 minutes. At this point I thought there’d be no tickets left for my desired day, anyways, since they have limited occupancy for COVID purposes. Finally my call got through, and thankfully there were plenty of time slots left for the day I wanted. The lady on the phone didn’t seem to care or understand that I was a student at Northeastern, which would usually warrant only $5 tickets to special exhibits (since general admission is free), so I ended up paying full price of $30 per ticket, plus a $6 fee for ordering on the phone. After over an hour of this, I was just glad to get the tickets and didn’t want to argue with her for the correct price.

Pixabay Several weeks later, I finally visited. They have multiple people standing out front of the MFA, each one a different checkpoint, if you will. One to ask what time slot you are, one for Covid purposes (check temperature, read the sign with the list of symptoms, etc.), a third to give you a wristband to wear, one to open the door for you and ask for a second time if you have tickets, and a fifth set of people inside the door to scan the tickets and direct you to your exhibit. All of this was highly confusing and disorganized. Not a great start to the day, to say the least. I arrived at around 2:30pm, for my time slot of 2-3pm entry. I waited in line outside the Monet exhibition entrance until 3pm. There were many people in line, but they can only let a few people in at a time once a few people exit the exhibit in order to control occupancy. This was somewhat frustrating, but I understand the occupancy limit rules. In terms of social distancing and other Covid measures, everyone in line stayed pretty much six feet from each other, but there was no reprimanding of visitors whose masks didn’t really cover their nose. 

Once inside the exhibit itself, people did not necessarily maintain six feet distance from each other, and the proctors/security guards did not have much to say about this. They did, however, yell at people who moved on to the next room and tried to backtrack to the prior room to see something again. Once again I understand this was a safety measure, but they were still rather harsh and unfriendly.  I was particularly excited for this visit because I thought since they would have such limited occupancy, there wouldn’t be much wait to get up close to a painting and not feel rushed or crammed by other visitors. However, this was not the case at all. Because they keep the exhibit at its fullest possible capacity at all times (since people are always waiting outside) there were quite a few people in there and my predicted vision did not come true.

The Monet exhibit itself was great and I highly recommend going! The rest of the museum is eerily empty and quiet. This is great if you’re looking for a laid back day to stroll around, but it is rather strange and can be unsettling. Their directional signage on the floor (arrows and such) was completely confusing and honestly did make it any more safe of a visit. If you actually followed it correctly you would be going in random circles and backtracking constantly. So I’d recommend walking wherever you please and just keeping your distance. Not like you’ll be passing many people (if any) anyways. Overall, this experience was sometimes frustrating but I suppose it’s nothing one wouldn’t expect during this unprecedented time. I definitely recommend going, but remember to be patient!