Since the COVID-19 outbreak hit, many museums and cultural institutions around the world have needed to temporarily close their doors. While this obviously affects the financial well-being of each of these individual institutions, the broad cultural benefits of museums in our country, our greater economy, and the emotional well-being of our society have been sorely missed.
It may be a cliche to say that learning from the past can help us guide our way to a prosperous future, but that doesn’t mean it’s not true. 2020 has seen our culture become divided along political and cultural lines, and the opportunity to study past societies is as important as ever in these polarized times. Museums and cultural institutions play a significant role in helping us find perspective and context for our current issues, and the lack of access to that historical background certainly isn’t helping us overcome this division.
It’s also important not to minimize the contributions our artistic and cultural institutions have on our collective emotional well-being. The human experience is all about connection—to each other, to our environment, to our past, and to our future. Without access to art and culture, part of that connection is temporarily missing from our lives.
This is especially true at the local level. There are more than 35,000 museums in the United States, and regional museums (like America’s many great county museums) are a vital piece of our communities. Local museums are invaluable as they offer a glimpse into the history of a specific location, and help us to honor our communal cultures, customs, heritage, and legacy.
The impact on our educational institutions is clear as well. We can’t expect our children to receive the same level of instruction and cultural experience on a video call as they would by browsing the aisles of an art museum or interacting with the exhibits at their local science museum.
Economically, the importance of museums and cultural institutions to the broader tourism industry cannot be overlooked. Popular museums draw in visitors from every corner of the earth, and people often plan vacations around visits to these institutions.
Without those tourism dollars, local economies around the country are being stretched thin. In fact, the museum industry contributes around $50 billion to the United States economy each year, and there are more than 725,000 jobs associated with these institutions. That’s a significant financial and societal cost that isn’t easily replaced.
Furthermore, the impact of cultural institutions on marginalized communities is nearly immeasurable. Museums that explore issues related to race relations, sexual orientation (or gender identity), and other historically vulnerable social groups are vital to the health of those communities and encourage allyship—which is always important in divisive and uncertain times.
Thankfully, the doors of these institutions are beginning to open. Someday soon, we will return to our fully-open artistic and cultural establishments, and Art Sentry’s state-of-the-art security features are here to ensure that this return goes as smoothly as possible. The last thing any museum staff wants to worry about when reopening their doors is the safety and security of their exhibits.