The Tate galleries and London’s Natural History Museum are closing their doors amid the coronavirus pandemic.
London’s Southbank Centre has also closed all its venues and the Baltic in Gateshead is to shut later on Tuesday.
The move comes a day after Prime Minister Boris Johnson advised people to avoid public venues.
In a statement, the Natural History Museum said it was “disappointed” but “the welfare of our visitors, members and staff” had to be a priority.
The museum said it hoped to open in “early summer”.
Tate Modern, Tate Britain, Tate Liverpool and Tate St Ives will close on Tuesday evening and remain closed until 1 May.
All V&A sites will also be closed as of Wednesday, including its main gallery in South Kensington, the Museum of Childhood, Blythe House and the V&A Dundee.
The National Portrait Gallery, the Serpentine in London and the Ashmolean in Oxford will also be closed; but the British Museum, Science Museum and National Gallery in London will stay open.
The British Museum said it was “awaiting further guidance” from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport on Tuesday.
In a statement, the National Gallery confirmed it “remains open and welcoming visitors as usual, and there are currently no changes to our operations because of coronavirus.
“We are in close consultation with DCMS and will continue to review and follow the advice from Public Health England. The health and safety of our staff and visitors is our absolute priority.”
Prolonged closures ‘a disaster’
The Museums Association said it was particularly concerned for the future of hundreds of independent charitable museums, which do not have large reserves to fall back on.
“Prolonged closures will be fatal for many of these organisations,” according to the association, which represents museums across the country.
“This would be a disaster – many communities would lose vital cultural resources, staff would lose jobs, volunteers would lose opportunities, collections would be put at risk and many local tourist economies would suffer a serious negative impact well beyond the current crisis.”
The association called on the government to divert the £120m earmarked for the planned Festival of Britain to help institutions that will find themselves in financial trouble.
It also called for greater clarity from the government, saying: “Guidance on what actions institutions should take has been vague and has left many institutions and individuals uncertain about what to do.”