After four months in which their activities have been restricted to digital offerings and online activities, the doors of the country’s art galleries and museums – and, importantly, their cafes and shops – are creaking open again as a degree of normality returns to Scottish life.

Phase Three of the Scottish Government’s route map out of lockdown allowed galleries to open from July 15, an announcement given a “warm welcome” by Museums Galleries Scotland (MGS), the national development body which supports 400 venues. In a statement issued jointly with National Museums Scotland, the National Galleries of Scotland (NGS), Glasgow Life, V&A Dundee and Industrial Museums Scotland, MGS said that the sector was looking forward to doing all it could “to support Scotland’s recovery as soon as is safely possible, through spaces and collections that bring us together, comfort, educate, spark conversations and inspire creativity”.

However it noted that re-opening venues involves “individual logistical challenges”, such as the requirement for increased training for staff, new ticketing procedures, timed visiting slots (as already happens for some blockbuster exhibitions) and reduced opening hours. There was a warning too: some museums and galleries, particularly those reliant on the support of volunteers, may not re-open at all “until they are financially and operationally able to do so”. That’s a big If, so as well as a warm welcome the news that galleries can re-open is also being given a cautious one. Just this week, after all, the director of London’s Natural History Museum, Sir Michael Dixon, said he expected social distancing requirements to cause an 80% drop in visitor numbers when the museum opens next month. The picture is unlikely to be much different in Scotland, so with the arts sector struggling in common with everyone else, the ability to re-open could be a mixed blessing.

Accordingly, the picture is mixed. In Glasgow, Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum will re-open on August 17 followed on August 31 by the Riverside Museum. Together those two venues accounted for over three-quarters of all museum footfall in the city last year, some three million visits, so for that reason they’re being prioritised by Glasgow Life, the body in charge of them. They’re also the biggest venues in Glasgow Life’s portfolio which means they’re the ones which can best accommodate the need for social distancing. Tramway will re-open on September 7 followed by the Gallery of Modern Art on October 5. All four of those venues will be operating at reduced capacity. Still in Glasgow, The Hunterian Art Gallery and Museum will have a phased re-opening in August. The Burrell Collection remains closed.

Aberdeen Art Gallery, which underwent a multi-million pound revamp late last year and was looking forward to record visitor numbers in 2020, will re-open in the second half of August with an advance booking system in place. The gallery’s two planned exhibitions – Zandra Rhodes: 50 Years Of Fabulous and the prestigious BP Portrait Award – will go ahead in September and October respectively. However the city’s printmaking powerhouse, Peacock Visual Arts, remains closed.

In Dundee, the city’s Museum of Transport has already re-opened and Dundee Contemporary Arts will re-open on September 4 (cinema and bar included). V&A Dundee will welcome visitors again from August 27 when it opens another fashion-themed exhibition, Mary Quant, the first major retrospective of the iconic British fashion designer. On the same day the Turner Prize-winning architecture collective Assemble will start work in the museum on a project called Making Room, in collaboration with local school children, Dundee Central Library and the museum’s Young People’s Collective. The aim is to build a room within the V&A inspired by historic Dundee buildings, and then move the structure to Dundee Central Library where it will become an area for digital learning.

In Edinburgh, where NGS has a portfolio of three galleries across four sites – the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art (Modern One and Modern Two), the Scottish National Portrait Gallery and the Scottish National Gallery – there are plans for a “phased re-opening” from next month, though the blockbuster Titian exhibition due to open at the Scottish National Gallery on Friday has been cancelled.

There’s better news, though, for fans of Hollywood special effects guru Ray Harryhausen. The retrospective of his work which should have opened in Modern Two in May will go ahead later in the year. The two shows planned for the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Bright Star: The Art And Life Of King James VI and I, and Temples To Tenements: Photographs Of Architecture, will also go ahead though probably not until 2021.

Also unconfirmed is the date for the show which should have opened in Modern One on July 15, an exhibition of new acquisitions including work by Salvador Dali, though visitors to that gallery from August will be able to re-visit Beyond Realism: Dada And Surrealism, which contains works by many of the Spaniard’s fellow travellers. A further announcement regarding the re-opening of the NGS venues is expected on July 27 although the grounds of Modern One and Two are now officially open, complete with sculpture trails and a pop-up café. Edinburgh’s City Art Centre, meanwhile, will open in September.

So what can you see next week? A number of smaller specialist or independent galleries have either re-opened or are planning to re-open imminently, most with either reduced capacity or, as is the case with Edinburgh trio The Scottish Gallery, Ingleby Gallery and Open Eye Gallery, by appointment only.

Pick of the bunch is probably the Queen’s Gallery in Edinburgh, part of the Palace of Holyroodhouse, which will open its doors on Thursday with an exhibition titled Eastern Encounters: Four Centuries Of Paintings And Manuscripts From The Indian Subcontinent. Coming as they do from the royal collection, the Queen’s Gallery exhibitions are always something a bit special, but with the increased focus on and scrutiny of the UK’s imperial past the arrival in the capital of this particular show is timely. It contains a wealth of intricate, illuminated manuscripts from the Mughal Court, many of them presented to members of the British royal family by the Mughal emperors or by representatives of the East India Company. There are also photographs, architectural drawings and paintings, including one by the great Indian artist Abanindranath Tagore.

If fashion and textiles are your thing then there’s a neat appetiser for V&A Dundee’s Mary Quant show available at the Dovecot in Edinburgh, where the delayed Mid Century Modern: Art & Design From Conran To Quant opened last week. It presents a show consisting of designs, clothes, photographs and textiles by the wealth of young designers who put the UK on the map in the 1960s, among them Quant, Terence Conran and Laura Ashley. As with many exhibitions for the foreseeable future, tickets must be booked in advance.

There’s edgier fare on offer elsewhere in the capital courtesy of Bodily Objects, an exhibition of work at the Arusha Gallery by a group of influential feminist artists. Among them are Judy Chicago, Rose English, Renate Bertlmann and Helen Chadwick, whose wonderful Piss Flower sculptures can be seen at Jupiter Artland, near Edinburgh. The art-themed park has also now re-opened and, being largely outdoors, visitors should have little problem social distancing. All that’s needed is some sunshine.

So as with everything else in life, those art galleries and museums which are re-opening this week or planning to re-open soon have a new normal to adjust to, one with timed entrances, booked appointments, reduced footfall and one-way systems. But one thing’s for certain in this strange new world: art being what it is, and artists being what they are, the pandemic itself will soon be the subject of work, or aspects of it at least: ahead of its re-opening next month V&A Dundee is busy curating a show to be called Now Accepting Contactless: Design in a Global Pandemic, which aims to show how designers have responded to the health crisis. Expect a tartan face mask or two – and not just on the museum visitors.