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1 in 8 museums could close permanently due to coronavirus pandemic: UN agency

1 in 8 museums could close permanently due to coronavirus pandemic: UN agency
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UNESCO and International Council of Museums (ICOM) experts are warning that 1 in 8 museums around the world could permanently close due to economic strains from the COVID-19 outbreak.

Studies by both groups show that 85,000 museums worldwide — about 90 percent — shut down temporarily during the pandemic, UNESCO and ICOM said Monday.

"Nearly 13 percent of museums around the world may never reopen," the groups added.

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"It is alarming data that we are giving," Ernesto Ottone, assistant director general for culture at UNESCO, said in an interview with The Associated Press on Tuesday.

Ottone said the museums in danger of shutting their doors permanently "have been closed for months, and they have no revenues. And they don't know how they're going to get their revenues."

ICOM President Suay Aksoy said in a statement that museums could not survive without support from the public and private sectors.

"It is imperative to raise emergency relief funds and to put in place policies to protect professionals and self-employed workers on precarious contracts," Aksoy said.

The AP reported that some institutions are reopening in Europe, although others such as the Louvre in France — the most visited museum in the world — remain closed.

Berlin opened four museums and one special exhibit over the weekend, attracting 10,000 visitors, according to the news service, which noted traffic was about 43 percent of last year's attendance for the same week.

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"It's [going to] be a very, very difficult year," said Pierre Coulon, operation director for public affairs of the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences Museum, according to the AP. "And we don't know exactly how long it will last and when we will recuperate a normal income."

The news service also reported that Belgian Prime Minister Sophie Wilmes called for support of the reopened Bozar Center for Fine Arts in Brussels during a tour on Tuesday.

"We have to show our support at the maximum level to this sector by coming here, to show that they are open again and that people can come back here in complete safety," Wilmes reportedly said.