Policy & research

Results from our Covid-19 survey of museum professionals

Timothy A. Long, Curator of Fashion & Decorative Arts and Dr Danielle Thom, Curator of Making, inside the Costume Store at the Museum of London
Timothy A. Long, Curator of Fashion & Decorative Arts and Dr Danielle Thom, Curator of Making, inside the Costume Store at the Museum of London

Art Fund’s survey on the challenges facing museums and galleries as a result of Covid-19 was designed to ensure that our funding could be adapted over the coming weeks and months to offer support where it is needed most. Our director of programme and policy, Sarah Philp, shares a summary of the key findings.

I want to start by saying thank you to the 427 museum professionals within and beyond our network who responded to our recent survey. This was a great response at a time of extraordinary challenge for all of us, and I am so grateful to you for taking the time to tell us what is worrying you most, and how you think we can help – now and into the future.

The challenges to museums and galleries posed by the Covid-19 crisis cannot be overstated. The results of our survey reveal both the enormity of the challenge, and some very practical guidance for Art Fund as to how we can offer support. We will be publishing a full report soon, but ahead of this I wanted to share some key insights on the main challenges you identified.

Four key areas are emerging:

Collections and exhibitions

  • 98% of museums surveyed have cancelled or postponed exhibitions until 2021 and 56% have refunded tickets

  • You told us that there will likely be more collections-based and fewer bought-in exhibitions and blockbuster shows over the next few years

  • You are also concerned about the longer-term health of collections, and worry that some important collections will be at risk


  • 85% of you are concerned about how to encourage visitors back

  • You told us that you think outdoor and larger indoor spaces will reopen first – with the costs of managing social distancing in smaller spaces possibly outweighing the benefits of re-opening

  • You told us that re-opening is likely to have a major impact on all front-of-house and public-facing museum and gallery activity – a third of all organisations thought they would be seriously affected in this area

Digital capacity

  • 86% of museums and galleries surveyed have increased their online presence and/or created new digital content

  • Everyone is keen to find ways to engage their audiences during lockdown, but our survey also revealed a digital divide: museums and galleries that had already invested in digital are much better able to meet this challenge while others are struggling to catch up. But we also heard that some of you think it is now necessary to be more strategic in an overcrowded marketplace

  • Less than half of you have seen an increase in online visitors to your websites; conversely you also told us about very significant increases social media engagement

  • You told us that finding ways to generate income through online activities is an area of interest to many

Professional development

  • More than 80% of independent museums and national institutions have furloughed some or all staff, but only 5% of local authority funded venues have furloughed employees

  • Over 50% of you are worried about the future – of your roles and your organisations

  • You told us that there are opportunities to work in new ways as a result of the crisis – more people working from home, more video conferencing, more sharing of staff and resources between organisations

  • Many people would like access to more training, networking and peer support – and advice on how to find the best resources that are already out there

I’ll have much more to tell you in the coming weeks on how we plan to respond to these findings, but in the meantime our existing funding programmes are still open; and we’re flexing and adapting these where we can to help museums and galleries access grants more quickly and easily than ever before.

Two programmes may be of particular interest at the moment. Our small project grants offer support to test new ways of working that will benefit your audiences, while our network grants provide funds to support professional networks, including SSNs, to share knowledge and expertise, and provide peer support and mentoring.

You can find out more here or please do get in touch with our team.

Research commissioned by Art Fund and conducted by Wafer Hadley

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