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Hermitage Museum sees return of 40-year record number of visitors

To date, the museum welcomes 4.5 million visitors annually

SAINT-PETERSBURG, November 8. /TASS/. The State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg now welcomes 4.5 million visitors per year, Hermitage Director General Mikhail Piotrovsky told TASS. The number of visitors has topped the record high reached in the 1970s after a fall in the 1990s, he added, pointing out that an influx of tourists requires regulation to ensure the safety of both the guests and the exhibits.

"The Hermitage was addressing this problem, when no one in the world was, specifically forty years ago. At that time, we had almost the same amount of visitors as we do now, 4.5 mln people, and the inflow of tourists is a big problem," Piotrovsky noted.

The Hermitage chief emphasized that this problem has two sides to it. "The first one is how to protect the buildings given logistics, restoration and other things, because it is impossible to move around. The second and no less important issue is that we need to ensure access to those who are keen to come and see just one time - this is also crucial and very good - but also children, students and those who need to study," the museum director specified.

Piotrovsky also said that capping the number of visitors is a necessary measure. "They should understand that it’s like the theater. Luckily, there are fire safety rules limiting this number. The Hermitage’s main complex room can welcome 7,111 people at a time, but this doesn’t mean that this is the maximum possible number of people you can squeeze in, but the number we can evacuate within 10 minutes if a fire breaks out in the building," he explained.

One of the easiest ways to regulate the number of visitors is a cloakroom with limited space. "The cloakroom also sets the limit because it’s approximately the above-mentioned 7,000. If there is no space left, people end up standing in line," Piotrovsky said. Another option is to create virtual "clones" of museums, so people can first watch the collection online and then come and see it in the museum, he added.

The Hermitage head also said that he has discussed the issue of the influx of tourists with the chiefs of the world’s other largest museums at a conference in Vatican City. "The problem is crucial for everyone, and we touched upon it with our big team of museums in Vatican (City). That’s from the Vatican - they’ve recently reached a visitorship of 6 mln people. We’ve discussed it with the Louvre and the National gallery of Art in Washington," Piotrovsky noted.

How many people can the Hermitage welcome?

In 2017, the Hermitage welcomed around 4 mln visitors. Piotrovsky previously said that the figure is close to the maximum that the main museum complex on the Palace Embankment can welcome.

The Hermitage Museum consists of the main museum complex, which in turn comprises the six buildings on the Palace Embankment, including the Winter Palace, the Eastern Wing of the General Staff Building, the Menshikov Palace, the Staraya Derevnya Restoration and Storage Center and the Museum of the Imperial Porcelain Factory. The Hermitage head previously expected that the total number of visitors to the museum at all of its sites would reach 6 mln people in the coming years.