National Snapshot of COVID-19 Impact on United States Museums

Source: American Alliance of Museums and Wilkening Consulting, November 2020

From the summary:
Between October 15-28, AAM and Seattle-based Wilkening Consulting conducted the second iteration of a survey of 850 museum directors to assess the impacts of COVID-19 on the museum field. The survey asked the same questions as the first National Snapshot of COVID-19 Impact on United States Museums conducted in June, and gathered some new data and benchmark metrics for members. Museum directors responded to the AAM survey on behalf of their organizations, representing a broad cross-section of the field geographically, by size, and by discipline.

The sample of 850 museums provides a confidence level of 95 percent with a confidence interval of 3 percent for the population of AAM member museums. The data filters (by museum type, geographic region, and museum operating expenses) have smaller numbers and therefore higher margins of error. The research was conducted by AAM and Seattle-based firm, Wilkening Consulting.

Findings from the new AAM survey show museums are suffering prolonged stress and are anticipating a difficult and slow recovery:

  • Nearly 30% of museums in the United States remain closed due to the pandemic.
  • Nearly one-third of museum directors surveyed confirmed there was a “significant risk” (12%) of closing permanently by next fall, or they “didn’t know” (17%) if they would survive.
  • Over half (52%) of museums have six months or less of operating reserves; 82% have twelve months or less of operating reserves.
  • Over half (53%) of responding museums have had to furlough or lay off staff. Overall, respondents indicate that approximately 30% of staff are currently out of work. Positions most impacted by staffing reductions included frontline (68%), education (40%), security/maintenance (29%), and collections (26%) staff.
  • To prepare for reopening, each museum spent, on average, $27,000, with this figure cited as high as $750,000.
  • On average, each respondent has lost $850k in revenue due to the pandemic so far this year.
  • On average, respondents anticipated losing approximately 35% of the museum’s budgeted operating income in 2020 and are anticipating losing an additional 28% of normal operating income in 2021.
  • While museums are creatively replacing traditional revenue models, digital fundraising event revenues are falling 34% short of these traditionally in-person activities.
  • Museums are operating at, on average, 35% of their capacity–an attendance reduction that is unsustainable long-term.

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