COVID-19 Impact on Museums

Mark Walhimer Uncategorized Leave a Comment


I am working on the final edits of the Designing Museum Experiences manuscript. One of the most difficult numbers is the impact of COVID-19. As of today, more than 10,000 museums worldwide may close permanently..

Impact Worldwide

In 2020, UNESCO estimated that there are 95,000 museums worldwide, and predicts 10% permanently close (9,500 museums worldwide close permanently). 

“The study reveals that the number of museums is estimated at around 95,000 in 2020, which represents a 60% increase compared to 2012.”

Impact United States

In 2020, the American Alliance of Museums predicts up to 33% of museums USA to close permanently.

In 2014, IMLS changed the number of number in the USA to 35,000.


2020 ICOM 12.8% of participants fear that their museum might close. (permanently). 12.8% of 95,000 museums worldwide may close permanently

High-Impact Scenario:
“Thirty percent of US museums close permanently in 2020. Eighty percent of the remaining museums have instituted long-term downsizing and layoffs.”
Three New Scenarios for Financial Survival in 2020

35,000 museums USA, 30% permanently close, 10,500 museums in the USA may permanently close

I need to go back and review the UNESCO numbers, 10% of museums permanently close worldwide seems low.  

ICOM “12.8% of participants fear that their museum might close. (permanently)”

 That would be 12.8% of 95,000 (12,160 museums worldwide close permanently)

Clear from the three reports (American Alliance of Museums, UNESCO, and the Internation Council of Museums
1. Many museums will permanently close
2. Digital presence is paramount
3. The Museum workers’ situation is dire; “Some 27.5% of freelance museum professionals are considering changing their career entirely.”


UNESCO, AAM and ICOM Reports:

  1. UNESCO 2020 Museums around the world in the face of COVID-19 PDF
  2. ICOM September 2020 Museums, museum professionals and COVID-19: follow-up survey
  3. AAM June 2020 National Survey of COVID-19 Impact on United States Museums

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