The atrium of the Harvard Art Museums, near Harvard Square. (Photo: Marc Levy)

After closing mid-March of 2020 to stop the spread of the coronavirus, the Harvard Art Museums are expected to reopen to the public Sept. 4, directors said Tuesday. Advance reservations will be required for most and will be available beginning Aug. 20, though a “limited number of tickets may also be available each day” to walk-in visitors.

The museums will operate at reduced capacity to prioritize health and safety, according to the Tuesday announcement.

Allowing in visitors has been a long time coming: It was in September that staff said the museums would stay closed to the public until at least Dec. 31; a year ago they were developing a phased plan for reopening, they said. But while institutions have welcomed back visitors nationwide, including at Boston’s Institute of Contemporary Art and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Harvard isn’t alone in caution: The MIT Museum remains closed, and the List Visual Arts Center allows in only Massachusetts Institute of Technology students, faculty and staff enrolled in the school’s Covid Pass Program, though outdoor public art tours are free and open to all. Lesley University’s galleries also remain closed.

The relaunch at Harvard includes a new Free Sundays program, adding to no-cost access Saturdays from 10 a.m. to noon and by Harvard ID holders, all students regardless of institution, people under the age of 18 and all Cambridge residents, among others. Admission on Free Sundays also requires advance reservations.

“We view the reopening as an opportunity to provide additional points of access that make it easier to visit,” said Martha Tedeschi, the museums’ Elizabeth and John Moors Cabot director. “Our online museum community grew exponentially while we were closed because of the pandemic, and we now want to turn our attention to extending the warmest possible invitation to every visitor to the museums, whether new or returning.”

Exhibitions and new installations on view this fall include “States of Play: Prints from Rembrandt to Delsarte” from Sept. 4 to Jan. 2; “Devour the Land: War and American Landscape Photography since 1970,” from Sept. 17 to Jan. 16; and a commissioned “Portrait” by Krzysztof Wodiczko from Oct. 14 to April 17.

The museum shop and Jenny’s Cafe are expected to reopen in the fall.


This post was updated July 21, 2021, to correct that Lesley University’s galleries remain closed.

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