Supporting museums: UNESCO report points to options for the future

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.