In one sense it was as if we’d never been away, in another a long-awaited, heartwarming reunion of the kind that lifts the spirits.
And so when the Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery reopened its doors for the first time after being closed for more than six months in lockdown, there was a palpable sense of relief on both sides of the divide.
Staff were delighted to finally be able to put their passion for culture and the arts back to good use at the city centre’s most popular free attraction.
Meanwhile, visitors were thrilled to be able to engage their minds with something other than their four walls at home.
The change of scenery really did prove to be as good as a rest.
As Jayne Edmonds says in the above video: “It’s quite emotional because I feel like I am having a real treat with something that we used to take for granted are just giving me goosebumps – it’s amazing.
“The (art works) have been locked up but I am glad they are still here.
“That’s comforting to me, that it was all still here for when we were going to be able to get to it one day.
“I am really smiling under the mask, just very happy to be here.”
First in the queue was Rod Shelton, from Kings Heath, who told BirminghamLive: “I had been trying to become a volunteer here before lockdown.
“I know I’ve got so much to learn that I prebooked to return as soon as I could.
“It’s part of a general plan to get out more and do stuff. Now I just need to find out more about how I can become a volunteer.”
Carl Ford from Sutton Coldfield used to teach special needs children in Kingstanding.
Once he was back at home and had had time to reflect, retired Carl, 65, said: “It was great to return to the museum to recharge my culture batteries.
“My father, Dennis Ford, was just a couple of weeks short of his 95th birthday when we lost him two years ago but he had been very fit up until a short illness.
“We grew up in Lozells and there were five of us children.
“He was a metallurgist who didn’t have a car then, but he would walk us everywhere to galleries and museums and places like Aston Hall and Blakesley Hall.
“It’s thanks to him that we are all readers and the reason why I’ve got 3,000 books at home.
“It was lovely to go back to the museum and art gallery which I think is one of the best in the world.
“I did a degree in pre-Raphaelite art and BMAG has one of the best collections.
“Yes, Birmingham is an industrial city – albeit one that has changed a lot since the 1970s and 80s – but with attractions like this we really do have the best of both worlds.”
How to return
Admission is still free, but Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery will only admit visitors who have pre-booked in order to ensure social distancing.
The opening hours are now 10am-5pm, Wednesday to Sunday.
The only entrance now is via the Gas Hall Entrance off Edmund Street.
Once inside, you have to wear a mask and follow the one-way system which actually helps to make sure you see more of the exhibits than you might otherwise.
But that does include the chance to walk through the Round Room, the Industrial Gallery and enjoy a coffee or more in the Edwardian Tea Rooms before leaving via the bookshop and the stairs (for the able bodied) down to the traditional entrance facing Chamberlain Square.
A two-metre wide Birmingham collage called Benny’s Babbies is one of three new featured works by Twitter artist Cold War Steve.
There’s also a stunning portrait of girls’ education activist Malala Yousafzai by Iranian-born artist and filmmaker Shirin Neshat which has never been on public display before and is on loan from the National Portrait Gallery.
The Thinktank science museum has still not reopened but special events are being held as and when at some other sites run by Birmingham Museums Trust including Aston Hall.
For full details of the relaunch of the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery visit our report here
+ Yet to reopen is Level 3 which includes the Birmingham Histories section, and an Anglo-Saxon helmet is currently the only exhibition on display from the Staffordshire Hoard.
It is hoped that if and when BMAG is successfully up and running – and without government guidelines changing in a more restrictive way in the meantime – that other parts of the centre can be reopened.
+ Ikon Gallery in Brindleyplace reopened on August 20, 2020 and you can read our report from that day here
MAC Birmingham, the city’s most popular free attraction will remain closed for the rest of the year while Birmingham Hippodrome has cancelled its giant Christmas panto with Jason Donovan
The Birmingham German Market and Ice Skate Birmingham’s Ice Rink and Big Wheel in Centenary Square will also not take place this year.
And following last Friday night’s announcement that the new James Bond movie No Time To Die was being put back another five months to next April, Cineworld announced it was closing all of its cinemas from this week.