A lack of funding for museums and galleries during the coronavirus pandemic could mean they fall into a state of disrepair, warns an industry expert.
Rob Gordon, operations director at construction company, Curo Construction was responding to ‘snapshot’ research of the sector by an independent membership-based British charity, Art Fund.
The research says visitor figures for October were just 25 per cent compared year-on-year to October 2019. Income was also significantly or severely down for 77 per cent of organisations. Six in ten (60 per cent) surveyed say they are worried about their survival. Art Fund has launched a crowdfunding appeal Together for Museums to raise £1m for museums “to adapt and thrive” under conditions imposed by Covid-19. Art Fund also says the lack of income will potentially affect the maintenance of sites.
Sarah Philp, director of programme and policy, Art Fund, told Facilitate: "Overheads remain high for museums even whilst they are closed, as museums must continue to care for their collections and maintain their sites. Many museums are also having to reconfigure the way visitors can access them to ensure a safe experience during Covid-19. In response to the pandemic Art Fund has made over £2m available to help museums adapt to today’s challenges and evolve for the future, but the need for support remains great."
Gordon said: “This is the opportunity to recognise the role heritage buildings play within our society. Heritage sites form part of an identity. Even the smallest heritage building can enrich the fabric of an area and the community experience. In other words, people care about them, form a connection with them, and often wish to prolong their existence.
“However, the power of these buildings is lost without proper care. If their features and systems are not protected from external conditions, they will quickly fall victim to decay and damage. Taking pride in our heritage is important. Historic architecture impacts skylines and landscapes. Iconic buildings tell stories, something that we must not lose particularly within our smaller towns and rural areas.
“As we adapt to Covid-19, cultural heritage sites are proving to be a powerful means for coping by providing communities with deep-rooted connections and, in some cases, even career opportunities. It’s important to take a unified approach to servicing and supporting heritage sites, which play host to many museums and galleries, throughout their entire lifecycle regardless of age. Those who operate them have a lot on the line.”
A spokeswoman for Historic England, an executive non-departmental public body of the British Government sponsored by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, told Facilitate: "Heritage sites require maintenance and repairs in order for them to survive and thrive. By establishing various funding streams throughout 2020, Historic England has striven to address these issues that Covid-19 has created. A large sum of the Government’s Culture Recovery Fund for heritage has also gone towards maintenance costs to ensure the country’s cultural heritage sites remain in good condition and that once re-opened, the public can continue to visit locally-cherished places."