Scottish museum bodies say institutions may not survive COVID-19

Scotland’s representative bodies for museums, including Museums Association, are jointly warning that many of the country’s museums may not survive COVID-19.

Other bodies sharing this message are Association of Independent Museums, Industrial Museums Scotland, Scottish Museums Federation, and University Museums in Scotland.

Museums are concerned that the combined impact of loss of earned income, limited emergency support and local government cuts could be fatal to the country’s institutions.

This is supported by research from Historic Environment Scotland, which found that within the heritage sector, museums face the highest risk of closure.

Since the beginning of lockdown, museums have received some assistance from Museums Galleries Scotland and the government’s Museum Recovery and Resilience Fund.

Museums losing income over COVID-19

However, this fund only supports independent museums, which make up approximately half of the sector, prompting concern within civic museums.

Civic museums have lost significant income during lockdown, while university museums are in a vulnerable position in Scotland.

The loss of any museums would damage the social and economic recovery from the pandemic, and Museums Association asks that the Scottish Government:

  • Fill the funding gap faced by museums not eligible for the Recovery and Resilience Fund.
  • Work with the museum sector to consider how civic museums can be funded.
  • Work with higher education institutions and the Scottish Funding Council to ensure continued funding for university museums.

Museums Association calls on Scottish Government

Sharon Heal, director of Museums Association, said: “We are deeply concerned about the plight of civic museums in Scotland. Local authorities are in a difficult position because of the extra costs associated with dealing with Covid-19 and the prospect of future cuts to their budgets.

“We are already hearing of major local authorities that are considering not funding their museums and galleries because they are non-statutory services. We are deeply concerned that some museums will not be able to reopen after lockdown.

“Museums are vital civic spaces and can play a critical role in rebuilding and recovery with their communities – but they need funding to be able to do that.”

Tate, V&A, National Portrait Gallery, British Museum, Natural History Museum and Science Museum have released statements on the latest closures caused by COVID-19.