Grounded Italian museum director plans for post-COVID future

0 申博电子游戏Print E-mail Xinhua, March 23, 2021
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The most obvious change the coronavirus pandemic has forced in the life of Christian Greco is that it turned him into an involuntary homebody.

Greco, 45, is the director of the Egyptian Museum in Turin, and before Italy's first coronavirus lockdown last year that role and all its corollary obligations resulted in him more often in airports than at home.

"Previously, I was taking a couple of trips a week, either to other parts of Italy or within Europe, with at least one intercontinental trip a month," Greco told Xinhua. "I'd always have a suitcase packed and ready to make it easier for the next trip."

Greco was Abu Dhabi when he first heard the word "coronavirus" in January 2020. He was teaching a course in museum studies at New York University's campus there. Soon after, he took a flight to Egypt to check in on the museum's excavations there, which is when he first started seeing scores of travelers wearing protective face masks.

"When we first heard about the coronavirus it seemed like something so far away," he recalled. "Seeing so many people wearing masks in the airports and on flights made it somehow seem more real."

Greco returned home just as the first official coronavirus cases were identified in Italy, which was on its way to become the first western country hit hard by the pandemic. Within days, there was a regional lockdown in Piedmont, the region that includes Turin, and then a nationwide lockdown. The museum was shuttered, and Greco's problems quickly expanded beyond no longer needing his passport.

Counting employees of all levels, the museum -- considered the most important collection on Egyptian history outside Egypt -- has a staff of 228. Greco said his primary goal since he recognized the seriousness of the pandemic has been to preserve those jobs and to make sure that visitors would have virtual access to the museum's permanent collection of more than 30,000 Egyptian artifacts.

The museum has opened and closed in step with the country's coronavirus health restrictions over the last year. It was closed from March to June, then open on weekends with health rules in place, then open every day for a few weeks, closed again for the winter holidays, reopened at the start of February, and then closed again at the end of the month.

"It's been a frustrating and confusing year for everyone," Greco said. "We're doing everything we can to remain afloat economically and to stay in the public eye."

Greco said that around 70 percent of the museum's budget comes from ticket sales, a revenue stream that has slowed to a trickle with the periodic closures. Ditto for sales from the museum book shop and from guide services.

But the museum hasn't stopped innovating. With no budget for major exhibitions -- whether for in-person viewing or virtually -- Greco said the museum has focused on smaller events, all the while biding its time until it can open its doors again for the general public.

Greco said that once things return to normal and the museum can resume normal operations, he will be eager to return to his former travel routine.

"I have not gone so long without traveling since childhood," he said. "Now, when I take the three-hour drive to see my parents in Veneto it feels like I'm traveling halfway around the world."

Where does he plan to go on his first trip out of Italy?

"To Egypt, of course," he said. "I can't wait to get back to our archeological excavations there." 

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