International Council of Museums Europe Alliance

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April 2, 2020

Statement on the necessity for relief funds for museums during the covid-19 crisis.

See full ICOM statement below and here:

“ICOM, representing the international museum community, calls on policy and decision-makers to urgently allocate relief funds to salvage museums and their professionals, so they can survive the lockdowns and continue their vital public service mission once it is over, for the generations to come.”

Also ICOM Germany has launched its own statrement, signed by the chair Beate Reifenscheid: see it here:…/…/128-museen-in-der-krise.html (see English translation below)

The International Council of Museums (ICOM) expresses its deep sorrow and its solidarity with the people affected all over the world by the COVID-19 pandemic.
We mourn the loss of lives and send our deepest condolences to those who have lost loved ones to the virus. We thank the health professionals, who risk their own lives battling the pandemic in the frontline, for their unparalleled efforts, and the international scientific community, who is tirelessly working to find a cure.

Governments all over the world have taken necessary measures to stop the virus from spreading, by closing schools and public spaces, and decreeing curfews. Two billion people have been confined to their homes, and the number keeps growing. They see not only their health but their livelihood threatened. As factories and stores are closed, and travels are banned, the global economy finds itself at the edge of a profound recession. The cultural sector, fiercely affected by the lockdown of museums, libraries, cinemas, theatres and others, will face losses that can permanently ruin the cultural landscape of entire communities and countries.

Understanding that the priority is to ensure the health and economic safety of the populations affected, we express our concern regarding the future of museums and the invaluable cultural heritage they hold – an essential part of the identity of the peoples and nations and a vital element for the communities they serve. As repositories of scientific knowledge ac-cumulated for centuries, their role is key in the future of humanity, especially in times of uncertainty such as the ones we live today.

Already severely underfunded in many places, museums that are temporarily closed today risk to be permanently shut tomorrow. In Italy, the cultural sector is expected to lose 3 billion euros in the next semester; in Spain, 980 million euros just in April. The American Alliance of Museums (AAM) estimates that a third of museums in the United States will not reopen. Thousands of museum professionals in particular those in freelance and precarious employments are on the verge of loosing their subsistence or already did.

ICOM, representing the international museum community, calls on policy and decision-makers to urgently allocate relief funds to salvage museums and their professionals, so they can survive the lockdowns and continue their vital public service mission once it is over, for the generations to come. The healing process of our societies after the COVID-19 crisis will be long and complex. Museums, as incomparable places of meeting and learning for everybody, will have an important role to play in repairing and strengthening the social fabric of communities affected.

We will collaborate with national and regional governments, as well as with our partner institutions and other international organisations to ensure the future of museums.

[ICOM Germany statement – English version]

The corona crisis has a firm grip on the world. Not only travel and transport routes have been restricted or brought to a complete standstill, but also schools, kindergartens, universities, shops and restaurants, the entire social and cultural life – and thus the museums.

To an unimaginable extent, it affects everyone in society and in the long term this crisis means unmanageable economic damage, endangering jobs, image problems and the Herculean task of being able to relate to all the positive things at a later date that are currently irretrievably lost or at best can be put on ice.

For museums, this means, on the one hand, the close bond with visitors that is suspended for weeks, but also the numerous exhibition projects that have to be postponed or even canceled. This applies to the collaboration with exhibition architects and freelance restorers, who largely suffer the most from the financial losses in such times, largely without permanent employment. It is also the wide band of committed people who have made a name for mediation and targeted tours, the many freelancers who work closely with museums, whose orders are suspended for weeks or are now missing altogether.

But not only the broad sector of cultural service providers, the museums themselves are affected: they will suffer massive losses in admission fees and merchandising, exhibition projects that are due in spring and summer will have to be postponed or even abandoned, regardless of the costs already invested and achievements.

This applies even more to medium-sized and small museums. The losses will be considerable and the effects are not yet foreseeable. Either way, it will have an economic impact for the coming years. The entire sector of artists, but also the art market, will be massively affected by these drastic measures, and many will not survive financially.

Even if politicians promise help and compensation, it can already be assumed that this will only help inadequately. It is crucial that we speak out and point out the potential impact so that we do not unexpectedly fall victim to further austerity measures at the end of the pandemic. Together with the other museum and cultural associations, ICOM Germany will work to ensure that politicians work for museums and cultural workers and provide financial support.

At this point, however, we would also like to call on you to share your experiences, your current problems and suggestions on how we can actively overcome these times. This is the only way we can weather this storm and find models and opportunities to guide museums through crises and discover potential that can be exploited together.

It will be immensely important to support each other and to encourage each day anew not to lose sight of the common goal: to bring the museums and creative minds in our world closer together and to join forces. Have courage and let us trust and work together in this difficult crisis!