As we grow closer to the one year mark since the initial COVID-19 lockdowns, it has become apparent just how much our lives have been changed. Many businesses that aren’t considered “essential” have struggled, and there is no better example than museums. It is imperative that we give our best effort to keep museums alive and running.
Museums are a vital component to the understanding and caretaking of our world’s artifacts, fossils and collected knowledge. While it’s possible to use the Internet to find trivial facts at the whim of your curiosity, museums offer an ample and curated assortment of accomplishments in the scientific and artistic fields, limited only by what each institution has to offer. And, to add an even greater benefit to your patronage, museums are nonprofit organizations. Instead of worrying that your hard-earned money will wind up in the pockets of an undeserving corporation, you can rest easy knowing that any money spent at a museum will be used to further our understanding of the past so people can harness that knowledge for the future.
Sadly, one of the greatest benefits of the institution simultaneously acts as its largest liability. Being a nonprofit organization, donations and visits are the entirety of a museum's earnings, and nearly all of it goes to the running of the museum itself. Much of the staff are volunteering locals that wish to take part in the community. Those who hold more skillful, paying positions make roughly $21 an hour on average.
Having a nonprofit organization be deemed non-essential and forced to shut down until lockdowns are lifted spells disaster for all parts of the museum community. To make matters worse, it is nearly impossible to determine the exact number of museums open at any given point in time since many aren’t affiliated with the government or the American Alliance of Museums. Given the event that one of your local museums is forced to shut down due to lack of funding during the pandemic, chances are you won’t hear about it until after it has closed.
There is some light at the end of the tunnel, however. As the halt of COVID-19 restrictions is yet to be seen, museums are finding ways to adjust to the pandemic. Some museums like the Museum of the Rockies are open, having patrons make reservations to visit. Others, like the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, have been doing virtual tours of the facilities so that anyone near and far can “visit”. Facebook Horizon is even being used to re-create museums for people to enjoy from home.
If there is anything else to be said on the matter it’s this: support your museums. Local or foreign. Plan a visit if you feel comfortable, see if any museums are giving virtual tours or, if neither of those sounds appealing, consider donating to help alleviate the strain of lockdowns. Do not allow these vital institutions to falter purely because they seem non-essential in the short term. I promise you they are a fundamental foundation for the future.