• Nikos Papanikolaou

One in three museums in the UK are in the verge of collapse

Photo by Hulki Okan Tabak on Unsplash

One out of three museums in the UK is currently struggling to stay afloat, despite the government’s plan to exit the lockdown and return to normal. Museums’ managers have been made significant cuts – in jobs and costs – to manage the damage that has been caused during the pandemic and remain viable for the following years.

By Nikos Papanikolaou

According to the UK Museums Association, 4,089 jobs have been lost by March 2021. Tate Enterprises made redundant 295 people in the Tate Galleries across the country. Additionally, Tate Enterprises has proposed to employees a voluntary redundancy package, which will save £4,8 million. The Victoria & Albert Museum follows the same strategy, as 140 jobs were at risks in multiple departments of the museum.

“I’m disappointed because I know from experience that these people were always underpaid. People who work in the museums are not doing it because the money is good, but because they love art and are passionate about it,” says Emmanuela Zaccheroni, 24, a speech therapist in London.

Another strategy the museums are currently exploring is to change the order they display art collections. In many museums, collections are displayed by the wave they belong to or by the material used to create them. However, in an attempt to make things more simple, some museums have proposed a chronological display of the collections, which is easier to be created and doesn’t demand many experts compared to the previous display strategies.

Four of the most prominent museums in the UK, Tate Modern, the British Museum, the National Gallery, and the Victoria and Albert Museum, experienced a 78% drop in their visitors in 2020 compared to the year before. Especially the British Museum has seen a decline of 91% in its visitors, from 372,000 to 32,000 per month.

“I’m still afraid to go anywhere near people, to be honest. Mask is not compulsory everywhere, and people are not wearing it. I’m not sure that museums can enforce masks, and as it is right now, I’m not even considering going to a museum,” says Hanna Wilson, 36, an events organiser in London.

According to the new guidance, museums can’t reopen before the 17th of May, and even if they do, the predictions are no good, as tourism will not be as high as the pro-COVID years, and the damage is expected to take years to recover.