A survey of American museums shows renewed optimism in their financial viability. About 85 percent of directors do not think their museums are under significant threat of closure in the next six months. The findings produced for American Alliance of Museums says this comes despite an average 40 percent decrease in operating income last year.
This prospect is in stark contrast to the outlook last time museum directors were interviewed. In October 2020, at the height of lockdown, when museums had shut their doors to the public for 28 weeks on average, nearly one-third of directors said their institution was at ‘significant risk’ of closing permanently or ‘didn’t know’ if they would still be around by autumn 2021.
Nonetheless the equivalent of 5000 museums still believe themselves to be at imminent risk, with almost half of those those responding to the survey saying they had to make job cuts and 44 percent admitting they had no plans to get back to pre-pandemic levels.
The survey also paints a picture of museum activity during lockdown. While many went down the obvious route of online programming or producing outdoor public art exhibitions, there were more offbeat activities keeping remaining staff busy. These include emergency childcare being offered by one institution, while others hosted a Red Cross blood drive and or became a distribution hub for essential supplies for the homeless. One museum turned itself into a farmer’s market.