UNESCO pandemic report points to intense funding pressures on museums across the world

A new report published by UNESCO provides a provisional assessment of the situation facing museums in countries throughout the world, with the majority remaining in a highly vulnerable position.

Data was gathered on 104,000 museums in 87 Member States last March, with UNESCO subsequently compiling information on the pandemic restrictions placed on museums depending on their location.

On average, museums were closed for 155 days in 2020. Since the beginning of 2021 many have again been forced into closure, with a 70% global average drop in attendance and a 40-60% decline in revenue compared to 2019.

The report also highlights reductions in public funding affecting almost half of the museums that responded to the survey, with some losing out on as much as 40%. This all comes at a time when museums are having to ramp up expenditure on awareness-raising campaigns and security protocols.

Recommendations proposed in the report include the implementation of a large-scale digitisation policy and measures to support education, training and research – both of which, it suggests, will need governmental support and international cooperation.

“The place we reserve for museums in pandemic recovery policies says a great deal about the societal values we wish to uphold,” notes Audrey Azoulay, UNESCO director-general.

“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 latest publication is a follow-up of May 2020’s initial Museums around the World in the Face of Covid-19, the first global report of its kind.

As part of UNESCO’s ongoing work to protect the world’s museums, it will hold a second High-Level Forum for Museums next September.