New reports have indicated that museums around the world face huge challenges in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, with one report indicating that one in eight museums worldwide may never reopen again.

The report, "Museums, museum professionals and COVID-19" was compiled by the International Council of Museums (ICOM). Its findings reveal that 82.6% of those surveyed anticipate that museum programmes will have to be reduced, and 29.8% expect that the number of staff they employ will have to be lowered due to the economic fallout of the pandemic. 

Exterior of the Ghibli museum, which holds the work of Studio Ghibli.
The Ghibli museum in Tokyo © cowardlion/Shutterstock

Sadly, 12.8% of respondents fear that their museum might actually close permanently. A further 19.2% said they were uncertain if they would be able to continue operating, particularly in regions where museums are recent and few and structures are still fragile. This fear is felt by 24% of African museums, 27% of Asian museums and 39% of those in Arab countries. This compares with only 12% of museums in Latin America and the Caribbean, 10% in North America and 8% in Europe.

Dome outside the Islamic Arts Museum
The Islamic Arts Museum in Kuala Lumpur © Mariangela Cruz/Shutterstock

A report by Unesco has also indicated that 90% of 95,000 museums worldwide have temporarily closed in recent months. "The impact of these closures is not only economic, but also social," it says. "Museums play a vital role in our societies." The Unesco report, called "Museums around the world in the face of COVID-19," says that museums strengthen social cohesion, foster creativity and are conveyors of collective memory.

 Ceramics and glass gallery at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
The Victoria and Albert Museum in London © Anton_Ivanov/Shutterstock

"Moreover, their role in the promotion of tourism is a key driver of sustainable economic development, both locally and nationally, which will be essential to overcoming the crisis in the coming months and year," it says.

Lockdowns are easing globally as the planet adjusts to a new normal. Find out how COVID-19 is changing travel.

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