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NEMO follow-up survey on COVID-19 impact

Follow-up survey on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on museums in Europe Final Report, Network of European Museum Organisations, January 2021


During the past ten months of the COVID-19 pandemic, museums across the globe have been impacted heavily at every level of their operations and structures. While many museums opened their doors again, applying strict and safe hygiene protocols to keep both visitors and staff safe during the summer months, at present, museums in various parts in Europe are closed to the public again as a result of firmer restrictions

COVID-19 has acted as magnifying glass on the role, structure and functioning of museums. It has increased the existing gaps and differences in the museum world, has demonstrated that lacking skills and knowledge, lacking flexibility and agile structures, as well as diverse sources of income, can lead to museums having to decrease or abolish their main activities and tasks in service of society, or even facing the threat of permanent closure. On the other hand, we have seen examples of museums thriving digitally, reacting creatively and effectively to the situation, becoming part of the community’s effort to mitigate the effects of the coronavirus situation, and offering alternative forms of learning and inspiration digitally. In the time to come, there is a need to investigate the reasons for the gap between these reactionary experiences to help museums at large thrive and fully tap their potential on behalf of society.

Until the pandemic is completely under control, museums are facing a substantial income loss, both while closed or open with security measures. Visitor levels have dropped considerably and do not only force questioning of museums’ business models and measures of success, but also ask for new approaches and ideas to connect to their audiences and provide access to their collections in a meaningful way.

This survey was answered by 600 museums from 48 countries between 30 October and 29 November 2020, the majority coming from Europe. It follows NEMO’s initial survey, report and recommendations about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on museums from May 20201 during the first lockdown and sought to investigate the different themes that emerged in the first survey and which have been discussed in the museum community. The themes are:

  1. Consequences of income (and other) losses
  2. The increased importance of digital museum offers
  3. Adapted operations and preparedness during and for crises

This report seeks to inform the community and stakeholders where the sector stands, and looks specifically at those issues, in order to develop arguments to keep museums open during the pandemic, to support them financially so that they may continue their operation and allow pace to adjust and invest in their digital offers.

The findings of the survey are translated into recommendations that NEMO addresses to stakeholders at all levels.

NEMO would like to thank all contributing museums for helping to capture the impact of the crisis on the sector, as well as partners and colleague networks for promoting the survey through their individual channels.

Download the Report here.