Museums have no borders,
they have a network

Take action: Advocate for museums

The financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic puts at risk the future of museums and the livelihood of museum professionals worldwide.

As governments define their strategy and the emergency fund packages to cope with the impending economic crisis, the museum sector needs to stand together and collectively advocate for national, regional and local measures to ensure its survival.

While museums are in lockdown, it is understandable for museum professionals to feel powerless – but there is a lot that you can do to bring about a positive change and help the situation of your and other museums (even from home!). Whether you have extensive experience advocating for museums or none, our collective contributions have the potential to strengthen the international museum community.

In this page we have collected good practices, infographics and materials you can use to effectively advocate for financial aid and other social security measures to help your museum.

1. Establish what you need

Assess the economic impact of the COVID-19 on your own museum and establish exactly what you need to ensure the employment of the staff (permanent and temporary), its daily operations and its programmes. This can be a specific amount of financial aid or concrete social security measures. A specific request will have a much bigger impact than a vague one.

2. Coordinate with allies

We are stronger together. Get in touch with local, regional and national museum organisations, including your ICOM National Committee, to coordinate or join advocacy initiatives. Research other institutions and organisations from the cultural or creative industries sector who would be interested in joining forces. While in lockdown, there are many tools you can use to stay in touch, such as WhatsApp groups, Slack, Zoom or Skype.

3. Build a strong message

Use the SPIT method to create a strong message and maximise its impact:

  • Specific: Know exactly what you need
  • Personal: Personalise your message by explaining how the COVID-19 pandemic affects your museum specifically
  • Informative: Use quantitative data to support your points
  • Timely: Know when decisions will be voted or brought to the floor and get in touch with elected officials beforehand

4. Use powerful data

While a majority of people are aware of the social value of museums, their great impact on local development is not so well known. When asking for financial aid, it is imperative to provide data on the contribution of your museum to the local economy, and to what extent it would be hindered if you museum is forced to reduce its activity or staff. Estimate the economic impact of your museum in its local community, such as indirect jobs and tax revenue. You can consult the ICOM-OECD Guide for Local Governments, Communities and Museums, a tool that can be used by museums to assess and strengthen their existing and potential linkages with the local economy and social fabric.

5. Get in touch with political decision-makers

To make a case for your museum, deliver your message to political stakeholders. Although they may be overwhelmed with many other issues and not respond immediately or at all, it is important to let them know about how the COVID-19 is affecting your museum and what they can do to help. As the confinement measures do not allow in-person meetings, you will have to do it remotely. There are several options:

Official letter and emailsHere you can download a sample letter for elected officials with tips and ideas you may use. In the infographic below, you can also find a simple method for writing your own letter to political  decision-makers.

Social mediaNowadays, most elected officials are active in social media. You can reach them directly by tagging them in your posts. If you are not familiar with using social media, you can check the Social Media Guidelines for ICOM Committees. Although created for our Committees, they contain useful advice that you can apply to your advocacy strategy, such as conducting campaigns or writing for social media.

6. Stay in touch with the international museum community

ICOM will continue to provide support to the international museum community during the pandemic. We have issued a Statement on the necessity for relief funds for museums during the COVID-19 crisis that you can use to support your points. Furthermore, we have conducted a survey on the economic impact of COVID-19 on museums and museum professionals around the world. Its results provide a global vision of the current situation and can support museums and policy-makers find solutions to the crisis. 

Finally, to effectively strengthen the advocacy strategies enacted by ICOM National Committees, we are currently working on an Advocacy Manual. To make sure the content of the manual is relevant and adequate, we ask all ICOM National Committees to complete a survey on advocacy practices in your country and on the current actions your Committee is carrying out.

If you haven’t participated yet, you can complete the survey below.