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Mexico City museums ask for help after influenza

June 1, 2009 |  9:17 am

Fraida Kahlo

Visits to some of Mexico City’s museums have fallen by as much as 90% since the outbreak of the H1N1 virus last month that prompted a near shutdown of numerous facilities, according to reports in the local media.

Owners of some of the privately owned museums in the capital are seeking financial help from the government  and say that if attendance doesn't pick up, they may be forced to take “drastic measures,” such as cutting staff by half and opening for only three days a week.

Carlos Phillips, owner of the Dolores Olmedo Museum, which houses a collection of paintings by Frida Kahlo and the largest private collection of works by Diego Rivera, told the Notimex news agency that before the H1N1 virus hit Mexico City, visitors to his and other museums had risen over the last 12 months.

But he said that government measures in reaction to the virus, which included shutting schools, museums and cinemas and restricting restaurants to take-out service only, “put various sectors in a precarious situation, among them the cultural sector.”

He referred to museums – such as his own – that don’t receive governmental support and depend on entrance fees for their survival.

Phillips, who is also the owner of the Frida Kahlo Museum and the Diego Rivera Anahuacalli Museum, told Notimex: “We’ve decided to wait for May and June to go by before taking drastic measures like reducing the number of staff we have or only opening our doors for three days a week."

Last week, La Jornada reported that five of the city’s non-government-owned museums, including the three mentioned above as well as the Soumaya and Franz Mayer museums, were petitioning the government for help and accusing it of ignoring the cultural sector’s needs after the influenza shutdown.

“They treat us like a pending problem,” Alfonso Morales, head of the Soumaya museum, told the newspaper.

“They don’t think of museums as part of the economy, or they regard them as subsidized entities that have other means of existing.”

Both Phillips and Morales want to create an association of non-governmental museums with the aim of improving their access to the media as well as reduce the taxes they’re required to pay.

-- Deborah Bonello in Mexico City

Image: Kahlo painted "Self Portrait on the Border Between Mexico and the United States" (1932) while she was in the U.S. with Diego Rivera as he worked on murals. Credit: Jennifer Szymaszek / Museo del Palacio de Bellas Artes

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