Covid-19 Impact: Museum sector research findings

Covid-19 Impact: Museum sector research findings


Following the temporary closures of cultural venues across the country in March 2020, Art Fund commissioned research to find out how they and others could best support as many museums as possible through this period. They asked cultural consultants Wafer Hadley to survey arts professionals about the impact of the Covid-19 crisis on their work and organisations, what they needed in terms of funding and support, and how Art Fund could best help. The resulting report draws together over 400 responses from two surveys – one for museum directors, one for museum professionals – across 22 in-depth interviews and two focus groups.

Four clear areas of focus emerged from the research:

  • The future of collections and exhibition programming.
  • The agile and adaptable digital skills and infrastructure needed to open up collections and reach audiences online now and in future.
  • How to encourage visitors to return once museums reopen and the practical and financial challenges that accompany social distancing in museums.
  • How to support an expert and passionate workforce through a period of continued uncertainty.

Other findings in the report include:

  • The most pressing concern for almost all organisations is safe reopening and attracting audiences back, and the financial impact of opening with social distancing measures. 85% of directors are concerned about the ability to attract visitors back.
  • Independent organisations and Trusts appear to be in the most immediate need of financial assistance; the impact to Local Authority run services, University museums and Nationals is likely to be felt later. Overall, more than half of staff are worried about the future of their organisations, but this is much higher in Independents (74%) and Local Authorities (61%).
  • Digital opportunities are immense and the vast majority (86%) of organisations have increased their online presence; but digital resources and expertise are patchy, and many museums are left behind. Finding ways to generate income through online activities is an area of interest to many.
  • There are gaps in the provision of training and development opportunities in the sector, particularly for a hub of information on existing resources. 68% of staff and 77% of directors were interested in support for free online training and skills development.
  • Although support for collections might not rise to the top of the list of concerns for museums and galleries at present, support for acquisitions, conservation, collections research and curatorial skills will be much needed in the near future, particularly with a refocusing on collections rather than toured-in shows.
  • With 56% of directors worried about the viability of their organisations, there are likely to be collections at risk due to the severe financial impact of the Covid-19 crisis on many organisations.
  • Networks and providing a sense of belonging are more important than ever; 70% of staff would find funding for networks extremely helpful.
  • Organisations are focused on the immediate challenges, but in the longer term new models and ways of working have to evolve.
  • In a changing funding landscape, it’s important for funders to work together and co-ordinate their support to help create solutions that address the sector’s needs.

Download the report 

Find out more about Art Fund’s open funding programmes for museums, galleries and arts professionals and free digital tools and resources or please do get in touch with their team directly.

Resource type: Research | Published: 2020