Home Magazine How are British museums dealing with the crisis?

Free admission British museums were not prolific even before the COVID-19 crisis. Thus, after approximately five months of forced closure, they are facing a severe economic crisis due to a terrific decrease in visitors’ number. The British government is trying to intervene in support of cultural institutions providing funds for over one billion pounds, in the form of loans and grants. There are, however, encouraging signs of recovery but certainly the massive reduction in tourism figures is complicating the process.

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According to the Department for Culture of the British Government which is monitoring weekly the number of visitors to British cultural institutions, the current figures for the ten most important sites is expected to be approximately 20 - 25% of the pre-pandemic capacity.

The majority of museums have reopened by the end of July, despite having sections closed to the public, as in those areas the safe distance between visitors cannot be guaranteed. On the contrary, they have all immediately reactivated shops and cafes, that obviously serve as a driving force for the economic recovery. Moreover, they have all adopted a mandatory online ticket reservation system (always free of charge, except for exhibitions) and a system of must-follow visit directions. Well-designed paths inside the rooms allow organized visits to the museums’ sections avoiding intersections and gatherings of people. 

The National Gallery claimed that is very difficult to make predictions in terms of figures. For the moment, the institution is focused on understanding visitors’ flows, exploring the number of actual visits to the museum, the amount of time dedicated to each section, and the number of people eventually cancelling their online booking.  

Tate Galleries have studied various different and compulsory itineraries within their permanent exhibitions. As usual, the stores are very active and have not missed the opportunity to produce and sell washable masks with various printed art themes such as the works by John Singer, Lily Rose, and Kandinsky. The Tate, however, risks firing 313 people, mostly employees of the "commercial" branch of the British institution.

The National History Museum has developed a new interesting project. During the lockdown, it specialized in the data analysis on air and noise pollution within the British capital, which in those months remarkably decreased. Moreover, it has published a study on the behavior and urbanization of many animal species that vastly appeared in the city as a consequence of the reduction of several disturbing factors such as pollution and cars.

Finally, the Royal Academy of Arts reports several sold out tickets for the various on-going exhibitions, but this is probably a consequence of the reduction in the capacity of the halls to 20% of visitors. Indeed, it claimed that these sold out shows are not enough to reduce the losses of over one million pounds per month, and that the risk of having to lay off several employees is still high.


Cover image: Cyclists are seen reflected in a puddle as they commute past the Tate Modern on June 20, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)

Written by Giulia Cami 

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