Dubai: One-third of the world’s museums are facing downsizing while six percent could close permanently due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a webinar hosted by ICOM’s UAE committee said on Wednesday.
The alarming projection was shared by the International Council of Museums (ICOM) during the webinar “The Future of Museums in Light of the COVID-19 Pandemic” hosted by ICOM-EAU.
Global lockdowns and ground flights forced by the pandemic have hit museums hard, keeping visitors and tourists away.
“ Traumatic locking ”
Alberto Garlandini, President of ICOM said: “Museums are going through the most serious crisis in their modern history… ICOM’s investigations into the impact of COVID-19 have confirmed a general climate of uncertainty about the impact of COVID-19. future… Many professionals, in particular consultants and freelancers – often young and motivated colleagues – are faced with leave and layoffs. We risk losing their knowledge and commitment, which would be a disaster. The loss of income due to the foreclosure was traumatic. “
The UAE performed relatively well – museums had only closed from March 2020 to May 2020 for the most part, said Dr Essam Al Najdy, director of ICOM-EAU. There are 164 museums in the UAE. The pandemic has led to a 40% drop in visitors to museums in the UAE, said Dr Al Najdy. However, there has been an increase in virtual audiences from all over the world “visiting” UAE museums due to the online exhibits launched during the pandemic. ICOM-EAU has “optimistic and ambitious” plans to offset any future threat from the pandemic, Al Najdy added. ICOM-EAU is also “building a special program” for private museums – which are not supported by government budgets – in the UAE to help them join ICOM, he said.
More than 50% of museums “complained” that they did not receive direct or indirect financial support from governments during the crisis, he added. ICOM “pleads for emergency funds at all international tables”.
Of the six percent of planned museum closings, 22 percent – the highest rate – will be in the Arab world, said Ech-Cherki Dahmali, vice president of ICOM’s Arab Regional Alliance. He added that the most at risk were the small museums located near archaeological and historical sites that depend on income from tourism and entrance tickets.
The two-hour webinar brought together speakers from 10 ICOM National Committees, including the United Arab Emirates. The virtual event was moderated by ICOM-UAE President Rashad Bukhash, who said he remained “very optimistic” about the outlook, mainly thanks to the UAE government’s response in handling the crisis. .