According to the Art Fund, the spread of coronavirus will force smaller UK institutions to indefinitely close if more help is not provided. Throughout 2020 the pandemic caused prolonged closures and sporadic openings for museums across the world, leaving the cultural sector in a precarious position as we enter 2021.
“Tragically, we are now seeing well-known and much-loved museums facing mothballing or permanent closure,” cautioned Art Fund director Jenny Waldman. Research conducted by the charity found that six in ten museums, galleries and historic houses were concerned about their future.
The Florence Nightingale Museum at St Thomas’ Hospital in London recently announced it was shutting indefinitely due to the strain that three national lockdowns have placed on the institution. “This is a sad reflection of where we have got to and the worry is that more will follow,” warned the director of the Museums Association, Sharon Heal.
“The latest lockdown is a body blow and is leaving our museums and galleries fighting for survival,” explained Waldman. “Smaller museums in particular, which are so vital to their communities, simply do not have the reserves to see them through this winter.”
Larger institutions have also been impacted by the pandemic, with London’s Victoria and Albert Museum planning to make 103 staff redundant, about 10% of its overall workforce, and Birmingham Museums Trust cutting the equivalent of 48 full-time roles, representing 25% of its total workforce.
In June 2020, the Art Fund offered £2 million in grants to “prevent immediate insolvency” of many UK institutions, with an additional £750,000 pledged in January 2021. They have renewed their appeal for donations to the ‘Together For Museums’ crowdfunding campaign, which seeks to raise £1 million in urgent financial aid to care for collections and support staff. As part of the campaign, donors can choose rewards created by famous British artists such as Sir Anish Kapoor, Michael Landy, and Cornelia Parker.
“Museums are where we go to engage with art, witness our psychic history and understand ourselves. Today they face great difficulty,” reflected Kapoor. “The Art Fund campaign gives us an opportunity to help museums to continue to provide access to all in spite of the difficulties of this time.“