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UK Museums Continue Struggling To Reach Pre-Pandemic Viewership, Says Report

A recent report revealed that museums in the UK have still not been able to match the footfall with pre-pandemic levels.

Earlier this month, the UK government released a report on the annual footfall across the 15 museums associated with the Department of Media, Culture and Sports (DMCS). These included the British Museum and the National Portrait Gallery. The most important conclusion of the report was that despite the lack of restrictions anymore, attendance at UK museums is still lagging behind pre-pandemic levels. The report came as a surprise at a time when most of the art world is under the impression that the lasting impact of the pandemic on the art sector is over.

For instance, the total footfall across these museums in Q1 of 2023 was more than 25 percent less than in Q1 of 2019. Between the period 2022-2023, a total of 35.1 million visits occurred at the museums in the network. This was significantly less than the almost 49 million visits during 2018-2019. Proportionally, the biggest drop came in the form of international traffic. In the latest period, the museum attracted almost 50 percent fewer international visits compared to pre-pandemic levels in 2019.

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The report also looked at other aspects of museums beyond just attendance. For example, last year DCMS loaned around 1000 items to various cultural institutions in the UK. While an impressive number, this was still 18 percent lower than the figures in 2019. Fahim Ali, statistician and author of the report, says that this proves the lingering effects of the pandemic on the British art scene.