Updated: Dec 29, 2020
Museums seem like immortal places, with their august countenances and treasured holdings. Even in our TikTok era of diminishing attention spans, they draw more than 850 million visitors a year in the U.S., according to the American Alliance of Museums.
But the coronavirus was not impressed, and the effects of the pandemic-related shutdown on the country's museums have been dire, says AAM President and CEO Laura Lott. In a survey released Wednesday of 760 museum directors, 33% of them said there was either a "significant risk" of closing permanently by next fall or that they didn't know if their institutions would survive.
"There's a large public perception that museums rely on government support when the reality is they get only a quarter of their funding from the government," Lott tells NPR.
Ticket and gift shop sales, school trips and museum events are primary sources of funding, she says, "most of which went to zero overnight when they were all shuttered."
The institutions surveyed ranged from aquariums to botanical gardens to science centers. More than 40% of them were history museums, historic houses, and historical societies, while art museums represented less than 25%.