Ensuring the operation of the National Museum buildings
The year 2020 was very atypical for all of us. It was no different in the National Museum, when the society-wide situation was fundamentally reflected in our functioning and completely changed the operation of our institution for many months. However, the empty buildings of the National Museum and its exhibitions in many of them were an opportunity for applying various modifications, doing maintenance work, repairs and modernizations so that we could welcome the visitor in the most pleasant environment.
In 2020, there were a number of adjustments related to the smooth handling of visitors in the buildings of the National Museum. Two new automatic cash registers have been purchased in the Historical Building, which enable the purchase of tickets without the visitor’s contact with the cashier, speed up the check-in of visitors at the entrance, enable contactless payment and shorten queues at the cash registers. This will allow us to serve the visitor more flexibly and in a suitable way even in today’s pandemic situation. Thus, the visitor in the Museum Complex got the opportunity to buy a ticket at the cash register, in a self-service machine or on-line.
The museum also had to respond flexibly to frequent changes in connection with the development of the epidemiological situation. The response was, in addition to mandatory masks and disinfection, the commissioning of a reservation system, which made it easy to monitor the number of visitors and ticket sales for a specific time. Thanks to these measures, the National Museum met all the necessary epidemiological requirements for the opening of the exhibitions. It was a completely new experience for the museum and visitors, which will be very useful in the future.
Despite all the measures, the museum buildings were closed several times. This happened for the first time on 16 March, when they were closed continuously until 10 May. The second closure took place from 12 October to 2 December. After this date, the museum operated in a limited mode, where visitors used time tickets. The last closure followed shortly afterwards on 27 December and lasted until the following year. In total, the Historical Building of the National Museum was closed for 113 days. During the closure period, the number of orders placed through the e-shop of the National Museum increased significantly. Thus, we stayed in touch with visitors on-line and continued to inform them about all new book titles related to current exhibitions, as well as promotional items.
Visitors now have the opportunity to appreciate the non-traditional seats in the eastern hall composed of cubes and blocks. The business unit in the Historical Building located on the second floor is also completely new. The new store offers customers a much wider range of goods on almost sixty square meters and is ready to serve all visitors coming directly from the exhibitions. The goods are offered in a modern way in an open, airy space.
As mentioned above, we continue to build new exhibitions for visitors, which is related to the story below, closely associated with the operation of the Historical Building.
If we look for the interesting things happened in terms of operation of the technical department, we must state that a lot of them happen all the time and there is always something to deal with. However, a particularly interesting moment was the movement of the jaws of the blue whale skeleton using point pulls (hook in the hall).
Chain point pulls are used for hanging and moving exhibits, structures or other auxiliary elements in the glazed halls and are located in the western and eastern halls of the Historical Building of the National Museum. The chain pulls are formed by the combination of a chain hoist, a chain and a box for the chain. The chains pass through the passages between the horizontal ceiling beams of the steel structure and end under the glazed ceiling, where hooks for hanging the load are attached to their ends. The maximum permissible load of one hook is 650 kg, and during handling the hook moves at a speed of 8 m/min. There are 32 chain hoists on each of the halls. The movement of the chains is controlled by the controller, which the technicians of the control room of the National Museum are trained to operate. This technology is actively used, and even in 2020 it was tested many times during operation. For example, as part of the events held in the hall, such as Superdebata 2020 or the Česká hlava Awards. The chain pulls were also used as a suspension system for photographs of the Czech Press Photo exhibition located in the Western Hall.
But back to moving the jaws of the blue whale. As part of the restoration work on the blue whale skeleton, it was decided that the original jaws were already very fragile and their normal lifetime would be endangered during normal operation. The conservators created exact replicas and the original fragile jaws had to be moved. At that moment, a problem occurred due to lack of handling space. The usual way, i.e. by stairway or elevator, could not be used, so it was decided to transfer the wrapped jaws through a window to a platform suspended by chain pulls and lower them to the floor of the western hall. An iron structure, a platform on which the jaws were carefully transferred in parts through the window, was hung on 6 chain pulls by the window of the upper room. In total, the platform was lifted 4 times, first the covers for the jaws were moved and then the jaws themselves. In the hall area, the jaws were then stored in packaging and taken to the place of their storage in the depositories of the National Museum in Horní Počernice. The whole event was recorded by the photographer Mr. Jakub Šedý.