Supporting museums: UNESCO report points to options for the future
Paris, 13 April – UNESCO has published a report providing a provisional assessment of the situation of 104,000 museums in the face of COVID-19, based on data provided by 87 Member States in an online survey conducted last March. The report confirms museums’ vulnerability one year into the pandemic.
In 2020, museums were closed for an average of 155 days, and since the beginning of 2021, many of them have again had to shut their doors, resulting, on average, in a 70% drop in attendance and a 40-60% decline in revenue compared to 2019. The report describes measures taken by museums, including awareness-raising campaigns and reinforced security protocols. It notes a significant reduction in public funding, in some cases as high as 40%, affecting almost half of the museums in the States that responded to the survey. This is alarming as extended closures and the sharp drop in attendance and revenue they entail impact the museum sector as a whole, making it more difficult to sustain efforts to conserve collections, ensure their security, and nurture relations with the public and local communities The authors of the report further point to the essential economic and social functions of museums, and to their potential contribution to post-COVID recovery.
The report features recommendations, notably urging the implementation of a large-scale digitization policy to inventory collections, and measures to support education, training and research. As the specialized United Nations agency for culture, UNESCO is committed to accompanying Member States and museum institutions in this transformation. It will provide a reference framework while promoting international cooperation. “The place we reserve for museums in pandemic recovery policies says a great deal about the societal values we wish to uphold,” said UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay. “In the midst of the crisis, we must not lose sight of the fundamental importance of ensuring access to culture and conserving our shared heritage in all its diversity. States have an essential role to play in supporting museums in this difficult period, through an ambitious cultural policy, not only to guarantee their survival but to prepare them for the future.”
The publication is a follow-up to the first global report of May 2020, Museums around the World in the Face of COVID-19. It is part of UNESCO’s ongoing work to preserve, promote and support museums, following the 2015 UNESCO Recommendation on Museums, the recent debate Reflections on the Future of Museums, and the High-Level Forum for Museums, whose second edition will take place next September.
- Follow debate of 18 March on YouTube: Reflections on the Future of Museums
- More information on UNESCO’s museums programme: https://en.unesco.org/themes/museums