BERLIN: Through the cold winter months, Berlin's museum directors have been custodians of silence. With doors closed to visitors due to the coronavirus pandemic artworks have languished hidden from view, but now curators are looking forward to reopening.
Chancellor Angela Merkel and German state leaders have agreed to start easing restrictions. If coronavirus cases are below 100 per 100,000 people over seven days - as in Berlin with a rate of 67.8 - people should be able to visit museums from Monday after booking a slot.
The city of Berlin's parliament is debating the plan on Thursday.
In the Egyptian Museum, the colourful bust of Queen Nefertiti crafted out of limestone and stucco in around 1340 BC has looked lonely of late. Museum director Friederike Seyfried said working in an empty space was depressing.
"A museum is there to be open to people, to offer them something and to make art accessible to all and if we can't fulfil this task of ours due to current circumstances, it's understandable but also very painful," she said.
She said the museum had ensured people were socially distanced when it reopened after a lockdown last year and is convinced it can keep visitors safe.
At the Pergamon Museum, the imposing blue Ishtar Gate, reconstructed using fragments of the original from Babylon, is normally a major tourist attraction but only those who work at the museum have been able to admire it recently.
"The objects come to life by being in dialogue with the viewers so we're really looking forward to finally being able to welcome visitors again," said Barbara Helwing, who runs the Museum of Ancient Near East housed in the Pergamon Museum.
Other treasures museum curators around Berlin can't wait to show off again include the Market Gate of Miletus, a 17-metre-high marble gateway built around 100 AD; Edouard Manet's painting "In the Conservatory"; and Sandro Botticelli's "The Virgin and Child with Singing Angels".
(Writing by Michelle Adair; Editing by Janet Lawrence)