The International Council of Museums (ICOM) expresses its deep sorrow and its solidarity with the people affected all over the world by the COVID-19 pandemic.
We mourn the loss of lives and send our deepest condolences to those who have lost loved ones to the virus. We thank the health professionals, who risk their own lives battling the pandemic in the frontline, for their unparalleled efforts, and the international scientific community, who is tirelessly working to find a cure.
Governments all over the world have taken necessary measures to stop the virus from spreading, by closing schools and public spaces, and decreeing curfews. Two billion people have been confined to their homes, and the number keeps growing. They see not only their health but their livelihood threatened. As factories and stores are closed, and travels are banned, the global economy finds itself at the edge of a profound recession. The cultural sector, fiercely affected by the lockdown of museums, libraries, cinemas, theatres and others, will face losses that can permanently ruin the cultural landscape of entire communities and countries.
Understanding that the priority is to ensure the health and economic safety of the populations affected, we express our concern regarding the future of museums and the invaluable cultural heritage they hold – an essential part of the identity of the peoples and nations and a vital element for the communities they serve. As repositories of scientific knowledge ac-cumulated for centuries, their role is key in the future of humanity, especially in times of uncertainty such as the ones we live today.
Already severely underfunded in many places, museums that are temporarily closed today risk to be permanently shut tomorrow. In Italy, the cultural sector is expected to lose 3 billion euros in the next semester; in Spain, 980 million euros just in April. The American Alliance of Museums (AAM) estimates that a third of museums in the United States will not reopen. Thousands of museum professionals in particular those in freelance and precarious employments are on the verge of loosing their subsistence or already did.
ICOM, representing the international museum community, calls on policy and decision-makers to urgently allocate relief funds to salvage museums and their professionals, so they can survive the lockdowns and continue their vital public service mission once it is over, for the generations to come. The healing process of our societies after the COVID-19 crisis will be long and complex. Museums, as incomparable places of meeting and learning for everybody, will have an important role to play in repairing and strengthening the social fabric of communities affected.
We will collaborate with national and regional governments, as well as with our partner institutions and other international organisations to ensure the future of museums