UNESCO warns 13% of museums may never reopen

The British Museum

UNESCO and the International Council of Museums (ICOM) have released information from two studies looking at how museums have been affected by COVID-19.

According to UNESCO, nearly 90 percent of museums (more than 85,000) across the world have closed in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

UNESCO has warned that nearly 13 percent of global museums may never reopen. It has also found that only 5 percent of museums were able to offer online content in Africa and the Small Island Developing States (SIDS).

“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,” said UNESCO director-general Audrey Azoulay.

90% of museums closed across world

“This pandemic also reminds us that half of humanity does not have access to digital technologies. We must work to promote access to culture for everyone, especially the most vulnerable and isolated.”

Priorities indicated by member states in the UNESCO study include capacity building, social protection of museum staff, digitisation and inventorying of collections, development of online content, technical assistance, and the equipment of conservation laboratories.

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

“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 play fundamental role in society

The number of museums worldwide has increased by almost 60 percent since 2012 to approximately 95,000 institutions, according to UNESCO.

This increase reveals how important the museum sector has become over the past decade. UNESCO also highlighted the fundamental role that museums play in a report published in December 2019.

UNESCO and ICOM will publish the full results of the two studies soon. They will continue to collaborate to support museums worldwide amid COVID-19.

Meanwhile, Italy is reopening its museums as lockdown measures ease in the country. The attractions are opening their doors for the first time since March.