Sharon Heal, the director of the UK membership and advocacy group Museums Association, has urged the government to offer more support to national institutions currently suffering financial hardship during the current coronavirus pandemic.
The ongoing pandemic of coronavirus disease was first officially identified in December 2019 in Wuhan, the capital of Hubei in China. As of March 23rd, more than 342,410 cases of COVID-19 have been officially confirmed but the actual number is thought to be much higher due to substantial under-reporting of cases.
With more than 14,762 people having died from the virus, COVID-19 has now spread into more than 180 other countries—including mainland Europe, South America and North America. Given the exponential growth in cases in countries like Italy, Spain and the UK, the WHO have now stated that Europe was the current centre of the pandemic.
As the UK government steps up its response, all museums and art galleries have been forced to close their doors for the safety of its staff and the general public. Now, as they prepare for huge loses, Heal has urged Prime Minister Boris Johnson to reallocate the money set aside for the controversial “Festival of Brexit” to those who are in desperate need.
The idea of a ‘Festival of Brexit’ was to celebrate all things British has part of a lavish event in 2022. Organised by festival director Martin Green, who previously organised the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympic Games in London, the government has allocated an eye-watering sum of £120 million to fund the event—a figure that the Museums Association believe should be deferred to struggling institutions.
Sharon Heal, the MA director, told the Art Newspaper: “We are calling for an emergency fund to be created to support museums through this difficult period. The government had earmarked £120m for a ‘festival of Britain’ in 2022; we believe this should now be made available to support museums at risk of permanent closure as a result of the coronavirus epidemic.”
“We would appeal to government and funders to provide financial support and emergency funding for institutions that are affected by the pandemic; and also ask funders to operate flexibility in terms of delivery of currently funded projects.”
Heal’s appeal comes shortly after the Museums Association issued new analysis showing that most institutions will suffer greatly from the current crisis which will leave many museums in potential financial ruin. “The closure of schools and cancellation of school trips may also result in loss of income. Many learning services rely on schools’ income rather than core funding to cover their staff wages and workshop costs,” they said in a statement.
“Some museums have warned of the reputational risk if a site is identified as the source of an infection, or if the museum is seen to have taken inadequate or inappropriate action. At least one museum has already had to shut down false rumours on social media related to its response to the coronavirus.”