Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 27 May 2020

One in eight museums worldwide will not survive the pandemic, warns Unesco

Nearly 90 per cent of museums around the globe have had to close as a result of Covid-19, and many will never reopen

An employee in Rome's Capitoline Museum on Tuesday, May 19, the first day of opening after more than two months of lockdown. Getty Images
An employee in Rome's Capitoline Museum on Tuesday, May 19, the first day of opening after more than two months of lockdown. Getty Images

Unesco has warned that one in eight museums worldwide may be killed off by the pandemic.

To mark International Museum Day, which fell on Monday, May 18, Unesco has released two studies created in collaboration with the International Council of Museums (ICOM), highlighting how such institutions have been particularly affected by the Covid-19 crisis.

Nearly 90 per cent of museums around the world, more than 85,000 institutions, have closed their doors for varying lengths of time as a result of the pandemic. And nearly 13 per cent of these may never reopen.

“Museums play a fundamental role in the resilience of societies. We must help them cope with this crisis and keep them in touch with their audiences,” says Audrey Azoulay, Unesco's director general.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York plans to reopen in mid-August with reduced hours and no tours to maintain social distancing. Courtesy AFP / Angela Weiss
The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York plans to reopen in mid-August with reduced hours and no tours to maintain social distancing. Courtesy AFP

Within the framework of its ResiliArt movement, which aims to support creatives during and after the Covid-19 crisis and analyse the issues at hand, Unesco has launched a series of debates devoted to museums.

The museum field cannot survive on its own without the support of the public and private sectors

Suay Aksoy

“We are fully aware of and confident in the tenacity of museum professionals to meet the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic,” says Suay Aksoy, president of the ICOM.

“However, the museum field cannot survive on its own without the support of the public and private sectors. It is imperative to raise emergency relief funds and to put in place policies to protect professionals and self-employed workers on precarious contracts."

Museums currently in survival mode are focusing on the social protection of their staff, capacity building, the digitisation and inventory of collections, and the development of online content.

The number of museums worldwide has increased by almost 60 per cent since 2012, to total about 95,000 institutions, according to the Unesco study, which “demonstrates the important place that the sector has taken in national cultural policies over the past decade".

Updated: May 20, 2020 05:10 PM

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