Museum Directors Fear Permanent Closure, an Alliance Survey Shows


In an American Alliance of Museums survey published Wednesday, 16 percent of American museum directors who responded to it said there was a high risk that their museums could close in the next 16 months if they do not find additional funding.

Another 17 percent said they did not know if they would survive without further financial help from governments and private donors, according to the survey.

“Museum revenue disappeared overnight when the pandemic closed all cultural institutions, and sadly, many will never recover,” Laura Lott, the alliance’s president and chief executive, said in a news release. “Even with a partial reopening in the coming months, costs will outweigh revenue and there is no financial safety net for many museums.”

The country’s museums have been casualties of the coronavirus, incurring steep financial hits. Museums in the United States are vulnerable because they rely heavily on earned income and philanthropy, and they receive fewer government subsidies than European institutions.

As behemoths like the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York have closed their doors, their ticket revenue has been shut off.

The Met has announced that it would reopen on Aug. 29, but this depends on the virus situation in the city and is subject to state and city approval.

While many museums are already planning measures to protect visitors once they are allowed to return, many institutions have not publicly announced reopening plans.

The museum alliance said that 760 museum directors responded to the survey, which was carried out in June.

It found that 39 percent had not set a target date for reopening and that 35 percent had laid off or furloughed up to 20 percent of their staff members during the crisis. A further 21 percent had laid off or furloughed 21 percent to 40 percent of their staff.

Half said they expected to reopen with a reduced work force. And even once reopened, they would be in a weak position: With a little over half reporting having less than six months operating reserves remaining, nearly two-thirds said they expected to have to cut back on education, programming and other services.

The museum alliance said programs like the federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program “has served as a lifeline for many museums,” but they need more.

“Money from public and private sources is crucial to saving the museum field,” Ms. Lott said.

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