AAM Survey Finds One-Third of US Museums May not Survive Pandemic

Yesterday, the American Alliance of Museums released the results of a survey designed to understand how museums are weathering the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the results, many museums face an uncertain future.

The survey asked directors of 760 museums across the country about their plans for reopening, the financial impact of the pandemic, and the services they were providing during the outbreak. Perhaps the most startling finding for those in the museum world was that one-third of the respondents were unsure their institutions could survive for sixteen months without additional financial relief. More than that, eighty-seven percent of museums reported only have twelve months or less worth of operating funds remaining. Almost two-thirds of respondents anticipated having to make cuts to programming, education, or staff in order to recover from budget shortfalls.

On a more positive note, the survey indicates that some museums workers have held onto their jobs through the pandemic so far. While many prominent museums have announced significant layoffs, fifty-six percent of the directors in the survey indicated that they have not laid off or furloughed any staff. The results do seem to indicate that those with more precarious employment prior to the pandemic were the most hard hit; more institutions reported laying off or furloughing part-time workers than full-time workers.

AAM President and CEO Laura Lott described why the public may not understand the full impact of the pandemic on museums. “There’s a large public perception that museums rely on government support, when the reality is they get only a quarter of their funding from the government,” Lott said.

Delaware Public Media reports that some museums have already closed permanently due to the pandemic, including the Annenberg Space for Photography in Los Angeles and World of Speed, an Oregon motor sports museum.