GENEVA: UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) and the International Council of Museums (ICM) have confirmed that more than 85,000 museums across the world – about 90 percent of all institutions – have shut because of the coronavirus.
UNESCO added that almost 13 percent may never reopen. It said protection of staff, digitisation and inventory, as well as online content development were priorities for museums but noted that there were large disparities in digital access between different regions.
“Museums play a fundamental role in the resilience of societies”, UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay explained. “We must help them cope with this crisis and keep them in touch with their audiences”.
The analyses also explored how the sector was adapting to the pandemic and ways in which it could offer support once the pandemic ends.
To affirm the resilience of art, UNESCO launched the ResiliArt movement last month, which conducts virtual high-level exchanges between international professionals and draws support for the cultural world during the crisis.
UNESCO also pointed out that since 2012, the number of museums globally has increased by almost 60 percent, demonstrating how important they have become in national cultural policies over the past decade.
The study also revealed wide regional disparities, with Africa and Small Island Developing States (SIDS), accounting for only 1.5 percent of the total number of museums worldwide. Furthermore, only five per cent of museums in Africa and SIDS were able to offer online content to their audiences.
“This pandemic also reminds us that half of humanity does not have access to digital technologies”, the UNESCO chief observed. “We must work to promote access to culture for everyone, especially the most vulnerable and isolated”.
These findings echoed a previous report on the implementation of the 2015 report on the protection and promotion of museums and their role in society. The agency underlined the fundamental role that museums play in education, culture and in supporting the local and regional creative economy.
Museums may be temporarily closed, but they remain a source of knowledge and discovery for many – now through virtual tours in particular.
This International Museum Day, let’s celebrate the inspirational power of museums & thank museum workers for their valuable contribution. pic.twitter.com/vbtxeGlos4
— António Guterres (@antonioguterres) May 18, 2020