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Berlin's Jewish Museum displays delayed by refit order

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The start of exhibitions at the Daniel Libeskinddesigned Jewish Museum in Berlin has been put back a year after the German government ordered a £3 million refit of air conditioning, lighting and wiring systems. The move followed market research which suggested the high visitor numbers could overwhelm the museum if exhibitions opened with the museum's current facilities unchanged.

The empty museum is already a major Berlin tourist magnet, attracting more than 160,000 visitors, with 750,000 visitors expected annually when exhibitions are up and running.

Museum chiefs have also decided to install extra computer and interactive exhibits, whose hardware will require better cabling systems and will add to the heat generated in the building.

The government has demanded increased security on the building after it was designated a Jewish museum at the start of the year. Bulletproof glass, security fencing and metal detectors are being installed as part of the £3 million spend.

Nina Libeskind, Daniel's wife, said that the work would involve a complete redesign of the first floor of the old building and the installation of an extractor air conditioning system to replace the existing passive cooling system. 'It's down to the success of the building, ' she said.

'We are equipping ourselves for a much larger audience than our designers could have anticipated, ' said museum director Michael Blumenthal.

'We want to prepare for at least half a million visitors each year. The technical infrastructure cannot presently accommodate so large a number.'

It is unclear if the museum will remain open to visitors during the work, which starts in September. The exhibition will now open in October 2001.

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