Airport tarmacs are melting, air conditioner sales are soaring and people have been advised not to travel unless necessary as the UK exceeds its highest temperature on record. The heatwave is testing England’s infrastructure and spurring unprecedented security measures at some arts institutions.
On Monday and Tuesday, the British Museum temporarily closed its upper galleries “to ensure the comfort and safety of staff and visitors”, it said in a statement. The museum has also agreed to reduce its opening hours following pressure from its staff union, the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) said on Monday. on Twitter.
Meanwhile, the Victoria & Albert Museum also closed its upper floors but remained open. The Tate is operating as normal, while the National Portrait Gallery is closed until 2023 for major renovations.
The British Museum and the V&A have said they plan to return to normal opening hours on Wednesday, but PCS is urging every UK museum to reconsider their plans.
The Museum Association, a British non-profit organization that champions fairness in the museum workplace, reported that the union had called on the British Museum to close for the remainder of the heatwave, citing the first-ever red warning from the UK for weather conditions which could cause serious problems. risks even for healthy people.
“PCS have raised concerns with the British Museum about poor indoor air quality. We recently wrote to the museum asking them to sign up to the SAGE Independent Safety Commitment, but they refused,” said one. union spokesperson in a statement.
They continued: “As a major, world-renowned tourist attraction, more should be done to improve the visitor experience and staff safety. Our members receive daily complaints from visitors about poor indoor air quality, humidity, heat and occupancy levels.
A spokeswoman for the museum said in a statement that “the safety and security of staff, visitors and the collection is the British Museum’s first priority”.
The historic UK heatwave is part of ‘unusually warm air’ rising from the European continent, the Met Office said, as wildfires raged in parts of Greece, Portugal, Spain, Croatia and France. Officials have reported that more than a thousand people have had to evacuate their homes and the risk of drought across Europe is high.
A national emergency has been declared in England, which could see temperatures soar as high as 106 degrees Fahrenheit this week.