Despite a large geographic presence, Africa and Small Island Developing States (SIDS) host only 1.5% of the world’s museums.
Rabat – The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the International Council of Museums (ICOM) report that the COVID-19 pandemic is illuminating museum inequality.
A recent study conducted by the two organizations revealed wide regional disparities regarding the number of established museums. The inequality, further highlighted by the uneven allocation of and access to resources and artifacts, impacts specific regions’ access to education, cultural exchange, and creative economy.
Despite being the second largest continent in the world, Africa, combined with Small Island Developing States (SIDS), hosts only 1.5% of the total number of museums worldwide.
The period of 2012 to 2020 saw the world’s total number of museums increase by nearly 60%, adding up to 95,000 spaces dedicated to cultural, scientific, artistic, and historical exhibition. An estimated 35,000 of the world’s museums are located in the United States, while Israel is reported to have the most museums per capita.
The COVID-19 health crisis’ impact on nearly all sectors of society has not spared museums. More than 90% of museums worldwide closed their doors at the onset of the pandemic.
The few museums that do exist in Africa and SIDS struggle to provide digital content to their communities during the COVID-19 crisis. Only 5% of these museums have been able to move a portion of their resources and content online.
UNESCO Director General Audrey Azoulay said the global pandemic is a reminder “that half of humanity does not have access to digital technologies.
“We must work to promote access to culture for everyone, especially the most vulnerable and isolated,.” she stressed.
The recent study underlined the essential role that museums play in nurturing education, peace through cultural understanding, celebrating culture, and supporting local and regional creative economies.
UNESCO is reportedly making a strong effort to support cultural and artistic professionals and institutions through their ResiliArt movement, initiated last month. Their aim is to promote access to art for all, in particular those who are unable to access digital resources.
“Museums play a fundamental role in the resilience of societies,” Azoulay explained. The UN agency is preparing to strengthen and improve protection for artists in the event of future crises.
UNESCO and ICOM announced that the full analysis of their findings from the recent study is set to be published soon. The organizations pledge to continue collaborating to promote and protect museums and their collections, as they play a vital role in our society and influence national cultural policies.