Dubai: One-third of the world’s museums face downsizing while six per cent could close permanently because of the COVID-19 pandemic, a webinar organised by the UAE committee of ICOM heard on Wednesday.
The alarming projection was shared by the International Council of Museums (ICOM) during ‘The Future of Museums in the Light of the COVID-19 Pandemic’ webinar hosted by ICOM-UAE.
Global lockdowns and grounded flights forced by the pandemic have hit museums hard by keeping away visitors and tourists.
Alberto Garlandini, President, ICOM said: “Museums are going through the most serious crisis in their modern history… ICOM surveys on the impact of COVID-19 have confirmed a widespread climate of uncertainty about the future…Many professionals, especially consultants and independent workers – often young and motivated colleagues – are facing furloughs and terminations. We are risking losing their knowledge and commitment, which would be a catastrophe. The loss of income due to the lockdown has been traumatic.”
More than 50 per cent of museums have “complained” they have not received direct or indirect financial support from governments in the crisis, he added. ICOM is “advocating for emergency funds at all international tables”.
From the six per cent of expected museum closures, 22 per cent – the highest rate – will be seen in the Arab world, said Ech-Cherki Dahmali, vice-president of the ICOM Arab Regional Alliance. He added that most at risk were small museums near archaeological and historical sites that depend on income from tourism and entry tickets.
The two-hour webinar featured speakers from 10 ICOM national committees, including the UAE. The virtual event was moderated by ICOM-UAE President Rashad Bukhash, who said he remains “very optimistic” about the outlook, thanks mainly to the UAE government’s response in handling the crisis.