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The Louvre closed its doors yesterday to thousands of visitors expecting entrance into the world’s most attended museum after security personnel went on strike because of overcrowding problems within the famed Parisian palace.
“Due to a recent increased in visitor numbers, members of the Musée du Louvre’s reception and security staff are exercising their right to strike,” museum officials announced on social media. “The museum will therefore remain closed all day today (27 May).”
Visitor numbers have increased more than 20 percent since 2009, and last year, the Louvre welcomed a record 10.2 million people into its galleries. A statement released by Sud Culture Solidaires, the union representing the guards on strike, accuses museum management of failing to address this “suffocating” problem by allowing attendance figures to balloon without adding more security and visitor services personnel to the premises. In fact, general staff has shrunk 7.23 percent in the last decade while security and surveillance staff decreased by 17.95 percent. And since the beginning of this year, the union says that the museum has welcomed an average of 100,000 more visitors per month, putting the average number of visitors per day at 40,000.
“What to say about visiting conditions when people are confronted with noise, trampling, crowds, extreme fatigue and the total inadequacy of museum facilities when there is such a high volume of visitors?” reads the union’s statement. “We refuse to continue to be insulted by the angry public!”
The letter also describes the museum as being unable to address security threats in its current state, having “no adequate measures in case of emergency evacuation” and the inability for security guards to distinguish suspicious objects left unattended at the Louvre between feet in the crowd.
Safety concerns are also accompanied by the union’s worry that the Louvre’s overcrowding has turned the cultural institution into a mere attraction. “And beyond this immediate necessity, the Louvre must be part of a deep reflection to redefine our mission,” the statement includes. “Get out of mass tourism, stop the establishment from turning into a cultural Disneyland, to offer a culture of quality for all, this is the challenge of these decisions!”
Last week, Hyperallergic reported that the Louvre had entered a partnership with Airbnb to sponsor private tours and evening concerts within its galleries in an effort to attract locals back into the museum. In recent years, Parisians have felt overwhelmed by the throngs of tourists who visit the museum, which is located in the landmark-laden 1st Arrondissement near the Tuileries Garden on the Seine. The special programming is supposed to help ameliorate overcrowding issues for locals looking to enjoy their neighborhood museum in peace.
How long will the strike last? “Staff will meet in a general meeting on Wednesday morning to decide what to do next depending on the responses we get from the museum and ministry management,” the union told The Local, an English-language publication for French news.
Beyond its social media messages, the Louvre has declined to comment further about the ongoing strike at this moment. “If you have purchased tickets for today, you can request a refund by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org,” the museum wrote on Twitter. “We regret the inconvenience this may cause and thank you in advance for your understanding.”
Update 5/29/19 11:25am: On Wednesday, May 29, the Louvre reopened at 11am, two hours after its scheduled opening time and only to visitors with pre-booked tickets. This morning, museum reception and security staff met with management to discuss how to better manage traffic flow at the museum.
Due to a general meeting attended by members of the Musée du Louvre’s Reception and Security staff, the museum will open later than usual on Wednesday, May 29, 2019.
We apologize for any inconvenience caused and thank you for your patience. pic.twitter.com/p1LaBse9Ec
— Musée du Louvre (@MuseeLouvre) May 28, 2019
National Secretary of the General Confederation of Labour Christian Galani told the Local: “The management suggested a series of measures to the employees yesterday, which they discussed during a lively general meeting this morning.” He says employees have decided to try out the proposed measures, including mandatory reservation for museumgoers, hiring 30 additional staff members, and spreading out the schedule of construction and renovation projects, which employees believe increase crowding at the Louvre.
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