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Opinion

To remain viable, museums must reinvent themselves: analysis

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A relatively unnoticed impact of the coronavirus pandemic, and the restrictions that have followed it, is in museums around the world. The New York Metropolitan Museum expects a $ 100 million budget deficit in the next 12 months, which will lead to job losses and cuts in its program. There are around 400 state-supported museums in Italy, which are currently inactive. China has a large number of state-supported museums and has been creating 200-400 new publicly funded museums each year. The Indian government recently announced a major increase in funds for the culture ministry to build five new museums and modernize five existing museums. All of this could be threatened, as most governments expect a large revenue deficit and much lower than expected GDP growth, which could lead them to rethink their budget allocations.

The Covid-19 pandemic should be a huge wake-up call for the museum industry. It is a sector that has not been agile, especially to incorporate the expectations of the audience and technology, including digital. Many of them still have an old static idea of ​​what a museum should be and have not rethought its mission for several decades.

There is a high probability that the funding available for museums will decrease. Most governments are currently reworking their spending plans, cutting costs, and reallocating budgets. For government-backed museums, this may not lead to many job losses, but vacant positions are unlikely to be filled, programs and other core activities are likely to be reduced, and there will be a reduction in capital works. .

However, most museums around the world are not backed by public budgets and have to rely on their own income through the proceeds of ticketing and events, and the sale of merchandise and other lifelines. corporate.

With a few months of closing with no revenue, and an important component within most museum budgets dealing with staff and maintenance, the impact will be immense. We can expect some of them to be closed for a considerable period of time, and some to be closed permanently. Even if they do open, their ability to comply with the programs will be limited. To follow the measures of social distancing, museums will have to regulate the number of visitors they allow at any given time, and therefore the number of physical visitors will also be much lower.

Given that museums play an important role in both tourism and the safekeeping of cultural wealth, it is more important than ever that governments, as part of the stimulus, consider supporting museums as a priority.

This crisis will also provide museums with the opportunity to rethink their relevance and their role of dissemination. During the extended blockade, there have been few online attractions provided by museums for the public to visit. The crisis offers them the opportunity to provide more services digitally. It enables them to develop new online revenue models to compensate for financial losses through reduced physical visits.

Hopefully, in a new avatar, museums will now keep the public a priority, run their operations like a business, penetrate deep into every home, and physically compete in cinemas and amusement parks, and on Netflix and cable channels virtually.

Vinod Daniel is President of AusHeritage and board member of the International Council of Museums

The opinions expressed are personal.

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