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At a time of year when museums and public art galleries are about to burst with March-break activity, many Canadian institutions are closing their doors to combat the spread of COVID-19. Others are monitoring the situation as they swab down their public spaces.

On the eve of spring break in the province, the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto said it will close Saturday and expects to remain closed until April 5, while Toronto’s Art Gallery of Ontario also announced a three-week closing. Both cited the advice of Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, David Williams, who has recommended suspending any gathering of more than 250 people. The Gardiner Museum of ceramic arts will also close.

“I strongly believe the decision to temporarily close the gallery is the responsible one to make,” AGO director Stephan Jost said in a statement. “These are extraordinary circumstances and we understand how disappointing this closure and the associated cancellation of programming and events is to our community.” He pointed visitors to the gallery’s website as one way to visit the collection in the interim.

Meanwhile, in Montreal, the Museum of Fine Arts has announced it will close until March 30 and, in Ottawa, the national museums announced collectively that they would close all locations across Canada until further notice.

This includes, in Ottawa, the Canadian Museum of Nature, the Canadian War Museum, the National Gallery of Canada and all three Ingenium museums, as well as the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Que., the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg and the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 in Halifax. ​(Ingenium operates the Canada Science and Technology Museum, the Canada Agriculture and Food Museum and the Canada Aviation and Space Museum.)

“We regret the impact of this decision on the individuals, families and groups who use our facilities. However, we believe that this decision is in the best interests of all the communities we serve,” the museums said in a joint statement.

In Ontario, the arrival of March break and the province’s decision to close schools for a further two weeks forced a difficult choice on the museums, as many parents planned to take their children to exhibitions, workshops and day camps. The holiday is usually one of the busiest weeks of the year at these institutions.

In British Columbia, museums are taking a wait-and-see approach: Both the Vancouver Art Gallery and the Museum of Vancouver remain open. However, the VAG has cancelled hands-on educational activities, including its spring-break programming, until March 30. Both said they are doing more disinfecting of public spaces and frequently touched surfaces. The Remai Modern in Saskatoon is also remaining open with extra sanitary measures.

Internationally, many U.S. museums, including the Metropolitan Museum in New York and the Smithsonian Museums in Washington, are closing, as is the Louvre in Paris. On the other hand, museums in Britain have chosen to remain open.

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