Museums are in big trouble

Courtesy The Field Museum

In ‘normal’ times, when we’re not in airports, we’re in museums.

And the ongoing pandemic is wreaking havoc with museums.

“The financial state of U.S. museums is moving from bad to worse,” said Laura Lott, President and CEO of the American Alliance of Museums.

AAM has been surveying its membership since the pandemic began. And in its latest survey of 850 museum directors around the country it finds that 30% of museums remain closed since the March lockdown.

“Those that have reopened are operating on an average of 35% of their regular attendance—a reduction that is unsustainable long-term,” says Lott. “Those that did safely serve their communities this summer do not have enough revenue to offset higher costs, especially during a potential winter lockdown,” she adds.

And, as we know, communities around the country have already begun to institute winter lockdowns.

Here are some other key points from the survey that are sure to alarm museum-lovers.

 *Over half (52%) of museums report that they have six months or less of operating reserves.

*Over half (53%) of responding museums have had to furlough or lay off staff. And about 30% of museum staff around the country are currently out of work.

*On average, museums responding to the survey anticipate losing approximately 35% of their 2020 operating income and an additional 28% of normal operating income in 2021.

Why care?

Because besides the wonderful exhibits museum present and the special collections they protect, museums employ a lot of people. And they add a lot to the economy of their communities.

Prior to the pandemic, museums supported 726,000 direct and indirect jobs and contributed $50 billion each year to the economy, according to

What will help museums make it through the pandemic?

Museums are asking federal, state, and local governments for financial support.

They deserve it.

We can help out museums by making donations to our favorites. By joining museums as new members or by making sure to renew our memberships. We can give memberships as holiday gifts, shop in museum giftshops (many are online), and we can make a point to visit the museums that are open in our communities and/or offering activities online.

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