The year of the pandemic or how museums survived the quarantine

8.06.2021 #coronavirus#covid-19#museumsinthepandemic


11 March is the official date of the outbreak of coronavirus infection that was recognised as a pandemic. On the anniversary of this event, we decided to highlight its impact on museums.

The quarantine measures have seriously affected the work of museums. There has been much discussion about this situation. For example, an online webinar organised by UNESCO and ICCROM took place in June 2020. It focused on the work of museums after the pandemic (to review the recording click here ). The European NEMO Centre (Network of European Museum Organizations) surveyed 650 museums from 41 countries during the pandemic and presented its findings.

According to the study, which involved mainly European museums, 92% of them did not receive any visitors and suffered significant financial losses.

75-80% of income has been lost by the major museums, which have been badly affected by the global decline in the tourism industry. Cultural tourism now accounts for 40%, which means that 4 out of 10 tourists choose a holiday destination based on its cultural offerings.

3 out of 5 museums reported losing an average of €20,000 per week due to closures.

San Diego Natural History Museum


It has to be credited to the fact that reliance on a diversified range of income sources makes European museums flexible. According to the survey, museums relying on private funding are more vulnerable. So far, most museums are experiencing a significant drop in income and are struggling to address the problem. Museums in 12 countries report that discussions are underway to establish a cultural emergency fund, while in 8 countries a reserve fund already exists. Museums in 15 countries state that their country has no emergency funding scheme.

According to the survey, all museums have managed to retain their core staff. About 70% of museums have changed staff tasks to meet current needs. However, 3 out of 10 museums have suspended the contracts of freelancers and 3 out of 5 museums have frozen their volunteer programmes completely.

Museums have been forced to change their approach to workflow. About 50% of museums said that more than 80% of staff worked from home during quarantine measures.

Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium


More than 60% of museums have increased their online presence after being shut down due to demands to comply with social distancing, and only 13.4% have increased their budget for online activities.

More than 70% of museums have expanded their social media activities. Most are considering offering more podcasts, live streaming and themed games.

Attendance at virtual tours and online exhibitions has increased significantly. Almost 80% of museums mainly use Facebook and almost 20% use Instagram to promote themselves. Half of the respondents said their museum provides one or more new online services now.


The world’s biggest museums have set up a “representative office” on the Internet


British Museum, London


Palace of Versailles, Paris 


Louvre, Paris


Vatican Museum, Vatican (Rome)


National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Seoul


The relevant organisations and stakeholders are advised at this stage to focus all efforts on improving museums’ digital literacy: creating digital applications, digitising collections. Equally important is shaping dialogue between museum and society, as it was museums that helped to reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness during the pandemic. Moreover, dialogue between the museums themselves and working together in all directions to overcome further crises is essential.

And, of course, the return of visitors is important. Many museums said during the quarantine that the exhibits were physically in need of an audience.

Most museums have already started operating with safety measures in place – pre-booking, limiting the number of visitors, regulating visiting routes and times, making personal protective equipment compulsory.

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