UK museums and galleries fear Covid poses existential threat | Museums

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British museums and galleries are suffering with strained resources and dwindling visitor numbers caused by the pandemic, putting their futures at risk, according to research.

Art Fund’s survey of museums, galleries and historic houses paints a gloomy picture, with 60% of respondents saying they are facing an existential threat, and revealing that only about half have received any form of emergency funding.

Jenny Waldman, Art Fund’s director, said the consequences of medium- to long-term closures could see many museums struggle to survive heading into 2021 and looking ahead to 2022.

“It’s like a long Covid for the arts in a way,” she said. “The whole of this year has been pretty disastrous and looking ahead, there are significant concerns such as will local authorities be able to support museums? The funding streams for museums look worrying as well.”

Beth Bate, the director of Dundee Contemporary Arts, said museums were struggling to come to terms with the “hokey cokey” of reopening and then closing again as new lockdown restrictions came into place.

Bate added that the fact that earned income, which is the main stream of income for many arts organisations, had been cut off or severely limited for most of the year was pushing cultural institutions to breaking point.

She said: “When that’s combined with the fact that many of us are heavily reliant on local authorities for funding – which is clearly facing a horrific drop-off – the situation, medium to longer term, looks incredibly bleak.

“We know that we will make it through to the end of this financial year because of the furlough scheme and the emergency fundraising that we’ve been able to do but next year looks absolutely chronic because we know that local authorities are going to be incredibly pinched as well as everybody else.”

Art Fund is launching a campaign called Together for Museums, which aims to raise £1m by asking the public for donations and it is being back by several artists, including Lubaina Himid, Anish Kapoor, Michael Landy and Melanie Manchot.

So far more than £250,000 has been raised, and Waldman said the money would be used by museums and galleries to innovate and find new ways to reach audiences.

Other campaigns aimed at helping the museum sector through a potentially increasingly difficult winter include the #ShopMuseums campaign, which was launched to promote online museum shops.

Recently, the Royal College of Physicians was criticised after it explored the idea of selling a collection of rare books, which it said could raise £6m and stop redundancies. More than 600 of its fellows and members wrote an open letter opposing the move.

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Source: The Guardian
Keyword: UK museums and galleries fear Covid poses existential threat | Museums

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