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ICOM publishes full report on museums and COVID-19

icom museums report

The International Council of Museums (ICOM) has published its full coronavirus report, which raises concerns about the difficulties facing museums during COVID-19.

According to ICOM, the coronavirus pandemic has had a negative impact on global museums, threatening their financial survival and the livelihood of museum professionals.

ICOM launched a global survey to analyse the impact of lockdown, which covered five themes:

  • The current situation for museums and staff
  • Predicted economic impact
  • Digital and communication
  • Museum security and conservation of collections
  • Freelancer museum professionals

The report, entitled ‘Museums, museum professionals and COVID-19‘ analysed nearly 1,600 responses from museums and museum professionals in 107 countries.

The responses were collected between April 7 and May 7, 2020. ICOM has released a summary of its findings, as follows:

In April, almost all museums around the world were closed over COVID-19, according to 94.7 percent of respondents.

During lockdown, many museums enhanced digital activities. Digital communication increased for at least 15 percent of museums that participated, while social media increased for more than half of the museums that participated.

Museums enhance digital offerings amid COVID-19

The majority of museum professionals worked remotely, and the study finds that in 84 percent of museums that responded, at least part of the staff worked remotely.

Although the situation for permanent employees is relatively stable, contracts were not renewed or terminated in 6 percent of cases.

As for freelancers, 16.1 percent of respondents said they were temporarily laid off, while 22.6 percent did not have their contracts renewed.

In addition, 56.4 percent of the respondents said they will have to suspend payment of their own salary, and 39.4 percent said their companies will reduce staff.

Museums may be forced to close over crisis

In response to COVID-19, nearly one third of museums will reduce staff and more than one tenth may be forced to permanently close.

82.6 percent of respondents expect museum programmes to be reduced, and 29.8 percent think that staff will have to be reduced. 12.8 percent of participants fear that their museum could close.

In African, Asian and the Arab countries, 24 percent, 27 percent and 39 percent, respectively, are concerned that museums may close.

This is compared to just 12 percent in Latin America and the Caribbean, 10 percent in North America and 8 percent in Europe.

UNESCO reports on the impact of COVID-19

Still, approximately 80 percent of respondents said that security and conservation measures were maintained or increased.

However, in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, these measures were considered to be insufficient by almost 20 percent of respondents.

ICOM is calling on policy and decision-makers to urgently allocate relief funds to help museums and staff survive the coronavirus crisis.

Meanwhile, UNESCO’s ‘Museums Around the World in the Face of COVID-19‘ report contains the results of its global survey on the impact of COVID-19 on museums.

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Bea Mitchell

Bea is a journalist specialising in entertainment, attractions and tech with 10 years' experience. She has written and edited for publications including CNET, BuzzFeed, Digital Spy, Evening Standard and BBC. Bea graduated from King's College London and has an MA in journalism.

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