If you happened to visit the National Gallery of Australia over the long weekend, you might have been forgiven for thinking that things were almost back to normal.
The sun was shining, and inside, hundreds of people were moving carefully through the gallery spaces, absorbing some of the national collection's finest works of art.
But it wasn't a normal weekend by 2020 standards.
It was, in fact, the busiest weekend the gallery has had since before the summer bushfires blanketed the city in smoke.
"We had about 4000 people - brilliant," director Nick Mitzevich said.
"It's the most buoyant weekend we've had since the bushfires...we're seeing things turn around, which is very heartening."
This was especially the case for a long weekend that, traditionally, sees Canberrans heading out of town.
But with travel restricted, Floriade cancelled and particularly cracking spring weather, the gallery was as full as it could be.
Full is a relative concept, though, with timed ticketing and visitors keeping a respectful distance.
Crowds in the gallery are a distant memory these days.
With the majority of visitors usually coming from interstate, the gallery's visitation has dropped by a whopping 81 per cent in 2020.
"It's pretty hard going because at this time of year, we'd be having many interstate visitors and we'd have organised groups - they would be in Canberra for Floriade," he said.
"We're not like a gallery in Sydney, or Melbourne or Brisbane, where you rely on your local audience within a 1-hour radius.
"And given the restrictions and people's anxiety about travelling, it's had a major impact on our ability to attract an audience. Particularly this time of year, where Canberra's full of school students coming for their pilgrimage to the national capital - we attract over 130,000 school kids a year as well, that's had a big impact."
And the gallery was already weathering some tough times; in June, Mr Mitzevich announced the gallery would lose 10 per cent of its staff due to funding shortfalls, a move unrelated to COVID or to the horror summer.
Tuesday's budget contained no real surprises - what looked like a drop in base funding was accounted for by one-off boosts it received last year for the upcoming Know My Name project, and for bushfire relief.
But Mr Mitzevich was upbeat about the next six months.
The gallery, along with several other national cultural institutions, received a handy funding boost - $4.5 million - in the budget to help with its COVID recovery.
And the postponed summer blockbuster - Botticelli to Van Gogh: Masterpieces from the National Gallery London - will go ahead in March, despite the worsening situation in the United Kingdom.
"The exhibition that we're taking is currently in Tokyo, so we're unaffected," he said.
"So we're optimistic about that. We speak to the National Gallery of London regularly and it's on track for a March date. We're going to be doing timed ticketing and even if the current restrictions are in place, we can still meet what's required to make that exhibition work."
The upcoming Know My Name exhibition, featuring works by Australian women artists over the last 100 years, will also have an extended period on show stretching to July.
- Know My Name: Australian Women Artists 1900 to Now opens November 14 and runs until July 4.