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13 Percent of World’s Museums May Not Reopen after Pandemic

A boy walks by a model of a dinosaur wearing a face mask, during a partial lockdown to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, at the Museum of Natural History in Brussels, Tuesday, May 19, 2020. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)
13 Percent of World’s Museums May Not Reopen after Pandemic
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Two studies show that museums are another part of the world economy that has been greatly weakened by the coronavirus pandemic.

The studies report that 90 percent of museums worldwide have been forced to close and stop in-person operations during the crisis. Of more than 85,000 closed museums, an estimated 13 percent are at risk of never reopening again because of heavy financial losses.

The studies were carried out by the International Council of Museums (ICOM) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

The two studies sought to understand the full effects of COVID-19 on museums worldwide. The research also looked at changes cultural organizations have made to survive the pandemic.

UNESCO and ICOM say they will use this information to find ways to support institutions after life returns closer to normal.

The studies found that only 5 percent of the museums in Africa and the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) were able to offer online materials to their visitors.

Even museums with online offerings will face a major decrease in earnings if they are not able to welcome visitors in person. This reduces their ability to support their employees and continue operations and public outreach.

UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay said in a statement that museums play a part in the “resilience of societies. We must help them cope with this crisis and keep them in touch with their audiences.”

Azoulay noted that the pandemic has brought attention to the fact that half of the world’s population lacks access to digital technologies. “We must work to promote access to culture for everyone,” she said.

In the United States, the American Alliance of Museums estimates museums are losing $33 million a day.

Another estimate shows nonprofit arts and cultural organizations across the U.S. had lost more than $5.5 billion by mid-May. That number comes from a study by Americans for the Arts.

This month, UNESCO plans to begin discussions among international professionals about how to deal with the problems facing museums. The talks are part of its ResiliArt movement, which was first established to support artists affected by the COVID-19 crisis. The first three events will center around the situation in Central and South America.

I’m Ashley Thompson.

VOA News reported this story. Ashley Thompson adapted it for VOA Learning English. Bryan Lynn was the editor.


Words in This Story

museum - n. a building in which interesting and valuable things (such as paintings and sculptures or scientific or historical objects) are collected and shown to the public

pandemic - n. ​an occurrence in which a disease spreads very quickly and affects a large number of people over a wide area or throughout the world​

institution - n. an established organization or corporation (such as a bank or university) especially of a public character

resilience - n. ​the ability to become strong, healthy, or successful again after something bad happens​

society - n. ​people in general thought of as living together in organized communities with shared laws, traditions, and values​

cope - v. ​to deal with problems and difficult situations and try to come up with solutions​

access - n. ​a way of getting near, at, or to something or someone​

digital - adj. using or characterized by computer technology​

promote - v. ​to help (something) happen, develop, or increase​