Survey Warns One-Third Of Museums May Not Survive COVID-19 Pandemic

attends the Annenberg Space for Photography Press preview on March 19, 2009 in Los Angeles, California.
LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 19: An exterior view of the Annenberg Space for Photography March 19, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Valerie Macon/Getty Images)
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July 22, 2020 2:37 p.m.

The American Alliance of Museums, an organization that solely represents all museums across the country, issued a dire warning on Wednesday that one-third of museums risk permanently closing as funding sources dwindle as a result of the COVID-19 closures.

In a survey conducted among 750 museum directors last month and released on Wednesday, 33% of them responded that there was a “significant risk” of closing permanently by next fall or that they “didn’t know” whether their institutions would survive the pandemic.

Laura Lott, President & CEO of AAM, cited how museum revenue “disappeared overnight” due to COVID-19 closures and warned that “sadly, many will never recover” in a press release on Wednesday.

“Even with a partial reopening in the coming months, costs will outweigh revenue and there is no financial safety net for many museums,” Lott wrote. “The distress museums are facing will not happen in isolation. The permanent closure of 12,000 museums will be devastating for communities, economies, education systems, and our cultural history.”

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In New York City, the home to a number of world-class museums, the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Met Breur announced it won’t reopen. The Met Museum’s main branch plans to reopen five days a week, with social distancing measures in place, in late August. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, however, has not yet given museums the green light to reopen.

The AAM survey also found that 87% of museums have only 12 months or less of financial operating reserves left, with 56% having less than six months left that would allow the institutions to continue operations.

Lott also pointed out that museums nationwide are hoping to gain new funding from federal, state and local governments to help recover from financial losses.

“On average, museums receive less than 25% of their total funding from government sources,” Lott wrote. “Money from public and private sources is crucial to saving the museum field.”

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