The pandemic-related closures across the United States have been tough on many businesses, including the country’s museums. According to a survey by the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) published on July 22, a third of all US museums are facing the risk of permanent closures before the end of the year.
The survey paints a grim picture — 33 percent out of 760 museums may never open again, according to museum directors, the reason being a lack of budget.
“There’s a large public perception that museums rely on government support, when the reality is they get only a quarter of their funding from the government,” Laura Lott, CEO and president of AAM, told NPR.
The majority of museum funding comes from ticket sales, gift shop purchases, events, and school trips, all of which have been paused indefinitely. According to a letter published by the AAM in March of this year, museums have been losing a whopping $33 million per day due to the closures. The letter also notes that museums in “smaller and rural communities” are expected to be hit the hardest.
The threat of permanent closure will affect not only museums as holders of the world’s most valuable artworks but countless employees, too. According to a statement by the AAM, “Museums support 726,000 direct and indirect jobs and contribute $50 billion each year to the economy. Of the museums able to reopen, over 40 percent plan to do so with reduced staff and will need to spend additional funds to ensure their ability to reopen safely.”
European museums such as the Louvre in Paris and El Prado in Madrid that have managed to reopen look a lot different post-lockdown. The large crowds that once strolled down their halls have thinned dramatically. What the future holds remains unclear.