The Metropolitan Museum of Art is mostly the same place you remember. But with new pandemic policies in place, you'll notice some differences when the institution reopens this Saturday, August 29th. And these protocols start before you even walk in the door.

First, you need to make an online reservation, even if you’re a member. If you live in New York, then you can make a reservation instead of buying a ticket outright, which will allow you to do pay-as-you-wish once you get into the museum. Then, when you arrive at the museum someone will take your temperature before you enter.

You will also, of course, have to wear a mask — you know what they say: no mask, no museum.

You can only enter through one door — the one all the way to the right — at only two entrances, the main entrance and one at 81st Street. You’ll be counted as your ticket is scanned, and again as you leave, so that the museum can be sure it stays at 25 percent capacity, which is about 14,000 people a day for the Met.

After that, you’re good to go — if, that is, you’ve brought your own map. There won’t be volunteers staffing information desks, and there won’t be any paper maps available, but you can print out a PDF out beforehand from the museum’s website, or call it up on your own phone using one of the helpful QR codes that are now posted around the museum..

There are differences inside, too. When I met with Quincy Houghton, the tall, masked Deputy Director for Exhibitions and co-chair of the reopening task force, workers were busily unpacking stanchions and putting up small rectangular signs with red writing that said “keep to the right.”

You can choose a direction to start off, but once you do, you need to follow a single traffic pattern.

“The stay to the right philosophy is consistent throughout the galleries,” Houghton said. “So there will be signs reminding you to do that. We have them on stanchions instead of on the wall because they sort of command themselves as being different. They’re three-dimensional. And also, even more importantly, we have the ability to move them — because this is going to be a learning process. We think it's a good plan, but it will continue to need to be refined."

There was a thunderous boom as a man pushed a cart of the new signs out of the Great Hall.

“It’s a wonderful time to be here,” Houghton said, nodding toward the cart. “You can get a sense of how it’s a work in progress.”

We headed to the Egyptian galleries. Because there were no visitors, the hallways were darkened, quiet. Houghton pointed to a gallery that was roped off. Small spaces, she said, aren’t safe. So you can peek inside the Temple of Dendur but can no longer fit yourself inside the narrow passageway.

The rooftop installation this year is 'Lattice Detour' by Hector Zamora

And certain amenities are closed. Cafes will only be selling water, and the water fountains are closed. Coat check is closed. Many benches have been removed and those that remain remind you that they should be reserved for people who need them. Elevators are limited to two people at a time — big red dots mark the corners where each person can stand — and bathrooms have posted limits. Plexiglass will protect security guards at the entrance, people at registers, and anywhere else there is staff. There will be no tours or talks or performances or classes. And there will be no rooftop cocktails. However, you will still find the annual rooftop installation — this year it's “Lattice Detour" by Hector Zamora.

But there are also some nice additions, like a bike valet which will be outside. And there’s hand sanitizer anywhere you might touch something, like elevator buttons.

At a member's preview this week

I asked Houghton who would be responsible for making sure people followed the rules.

“I think we feel like that is an overall institutional responsibility,” she said, as she strode past Egyptian reliefs and sculptures. “So the guards will absolutely play a big part in that, and visitor experience will play a big role. And also, I think we feel like it's a collective responsibility. So for all of us who are here, just walking through the galleries, we’re responsible. But there will be gentle reminders and lots of messaging before the visit, and I think people will start to recognize these new ways of experiencing this place."

Houghton said one of the things that should help is that you will find consistency across cultural institutions in the city — and around the world. Institution leaders have been talking with each other for months to figure out best practices and to come to an understanding — so that whether you’re visiting the Met or el Barrio del Museo or the Bronx Zoo, or even the Louvre or the Prado — you will have to follow approximately the same protocols.

“It's just making people familiar and comfortable and not feeling like they're a fish out of water, but it’s the place they know and love and that many of them call home,” Houghton said.

All that talking with peer institutions has had an additional benefit. Exhibitions like the Sahel exhibit on the cultural heritage of western Africa, which opened right before the museum closed on March 13th, have been extended.

“Everyone has worked so carefully together to rejig things. I keep describing it as three-dimensional tic tac toe, because it's not only your program and your dates and your schedule, which is complicated enough as it is in a place like this, but it’s also then coordinating with all of these other institutions,” Houghton said, adding that the collaboration has been a very positive one, across multiple stakeholders.

“Many institutions, including us, are slimming down calendars. So there's a lot of understanding when people need to move things around, not only because of just the immediate concerns, but longer concerns about tightened budgets and reduced staffing and all that stuff.”

Members walk through the Met during a preview before reopening

We stepped into a staff elevator — each of us huddled on our own black “x” — and finished with a quick look upstairs at the new exhibit The Making of the Met, which celebrates the museum’s 150th anniversary. Right outside, a cluster of workers were setting up a small retail area.

We only had three more minutes together, but we walked into a spacious hallway, the entrance to the new exhibit. Houghton said that staff started coming back into the building in mid July, and the extra time has given them a moment to process. Since the exhibit is about the institution, a lot of the wall text has now been rewritten. “We were able to add another layer of reflection on who we are, where we've come from, the choices that we've made in this hiatus.” She looked around, seeming both proud and tired. “We’re reflecting on the moment that we're in.”

Met members on line this week, ahead of the weekend reopening

The Metropolitan Museum of art is reopening on Saturday, August 29th, 2020. Visitor guidelines are here.