The Corona pandemic has torn a deep hole in the finances of Germany's more than 6,600 museums. "Regardless of whether a museum is financed by the municipality, the state or through the federal state, we have all had revenue losses over a long period of time," said Christina Haak, vice president of the German Museums Association. The actual loss cannot be named nationwide at this time, they said. Accordingly, figures are collected individually per house.
Despite the pandemic, a good 1,500 activities are planned across Germany for International Museum Day on May 16, according to the information, in the institutions that are already allowed to reopen. "That's still just over 600," said Haak, who is also deputy director general of the National Museums in Berlin. The goal of Museum Day is to draw attention to the thematic diversity of museums. The nationwide launch event will be livestreamed from the Berend Lehmann Museum of Jewish History and Culture in Halberstadt (Saxony-Anhalt).
In view of falling infection figures and progress with the vaccination, however, the museums are beginning to feel uneasy: "We are already concerned that culture will be the first to be financially burdened when it comes to paying for the corona measures in the future," said Haak. Accordingly, there are fears that in the wake of the pandemic, funding for museums, for example, will be set against saving the economy. "That's a critical debate. I hope it doesn't come that way."
The potential for savings is low anyway. Even with closures, savings can be made in operating costs, for example, but state-subsidized museums cannot easily make staff redundant. In addition, one would then have to worry about the whereabouts of paintings and other works of art."The next step would be to say yes, we'll sell the collection. But there is usually - thank God - a red line there in Germany," Haak said. Despite the counterarguments, she said she doesn't "per se" rule out "actually closing museums."
Raising ticket prices isn't a helpful tool either, according to Haak. "You don't automatically raise more money that way," she says. Tourists are more spendy on vacation, she says, but the city's population is very sensitive to price increases.In the past, he said, Corona aid has flowed, but it has not always been enough. "Often the revenue goes to further programming for the current year or next year. If that money is missing, then it becomes very critical in terms of having an attractive program in the future."
The National Museums in Berlin, with 15 collections in 19 buildings, have at least received partial compensation from the federal government for 2020. "But we are actually the exception there," Haak said. "At other houses, cuts are already the order of the day." The Museum Island alone, which is designated a World Heritage Site, was recently visited by a good three million people a year. According to a model calculation, at the beginning of the pandemic, based on the previous year's figures, the capital's museums were expected to lose a good two million euros in revenue per Corona month.
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