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2022 Museums Survey

The 2022 survey results at the foot of this section show that museums in London continued to face significant challenges in their recovery from the pandemic. In 2021-22, visitor numbers in London were still 51% down on the pre-covid levels of 2019-20, compared to 45% nationally. Moreover, some 12% of London museums did not re-open at all, a higher proportion than anywhere else in England. As elsewhere, many of those not re-opening were ‘micro’ museums, those who in normal times receive under 10,000 visitors per annum. In London’s case these were typically services located within larger institutional headquarters, for instance medical museums, with less control over key decisions on opening.

Overall there was a very mixed post-covid picture, with the larger museums recovering better. The one consistent and worrying message arising from the survey was the sustained damage to volunteer capacity, particularly in the capital. Overall volunteer hours were still down 33% on 2019-20 levels, but most concerning for London was that the recruitment of new volunteers to replace covid-related losses was still 47% down on 2019-20, compared to 29% in the rest of the country.

There were one or two spots of better news. The digital momentum brought about by lockdown was maintained to a greater extent in London than elsewhere. Digital audience engagement and e-commerce indicators were higher across the board in London than any other region. There may be a correlation between this and the intensive digital skills development programme provided by Museum Development London between 2015 & 2021.

We have carefully considered these findings as we planned our support programmes for 2023-24. The full London report below contains a great amount of of further detailed analysis, broken down by size and type of museum, and as such provides a very useful tool which museums can use themselves for benchmarking and comparison.

The full context of the national report for 2021-22 is also available here.

2021 Museums Survey

The London report at the foot of this section reveals the far reaching impact that the first year of the covid pandemic had on museums in the capital. In line with the national report, which shows the greatest impact to be on museums in urban areas, London was particularly severely hit, given its twin reliance on tourism and public transport. London museums’ fall in visitor numbers, at 93%, was among the highest anywhere. With such a drop-off in demand, 45% of museums in London did not re-open at all during 2020-21, and opening hours overall were less than any other region. Even where London museums did re-open, 91% reported occupancy to be below 40%, compared to 57% nationally.

The effect on museum finances was severe. Because of higher rateable values in the capital, fewer London museums met the eligibility conditions applying at that time to the local authority Covid grants, and only 37% of museums secured these grants compared to 61% nationally. Despite other government financial support schemes, overall 78% of London museums reported a fall in income. Little surprise then that 34% of London museums were forced to make redundancies, compared to 22% nationally. Neither was the London museum sector in a position to mitigate this loss of capacity through volunteering. As in all regions volunteers left, but the decline in new volunteer recruitment to replace them was greater in London than anywhere else.

Museum Development London has carefully considered these findings as it planned its support programme for 2022-23.The full London report below contains a great amount of further detailed analysis broken down by size, type of museum etc, and as such provides a very useful tool which museums can use themselves for benchmarking and comparison.

2020 Museums Survey

Starting this year, the findings of the London museums survey are published in the form of an interactive infographic report.

This survey was conducted over the period April 2019 - March 2020, thereby providing an almost complete year of data before the point when the Covid-19 pandemic struck and museums were forced into lockdown. It therefore provides a unique snapshot of the London museums in ‘normal’ times, and a benchmark of the position the sector would ideally wish to recover to.

The Museums Survey is a Museum Development England partnership project, and in 2020 was again undertaken for MD London and the other 8 English Museum Development regions by South West Museum Development. The interactive infographic, which can be found below, incorporates a new methodology for estimating sector totals based on the mean figures from those museums responding to the survey. If museums have benchmarking queries which are not answered by the infographic, they should contact Museum Development London, as we can provide answers via a more detailed index of results.

The headline data provided by the survey is strong and compelling. However, for 2020, the response rate fell from 58% to 54% across England, with London scoring a response rate of 42%. This is understandable in many ways because of the dislocation caused by the pandemic. London's lower response rate (as compared to the national average) makes it difficult to rely completely on the total figures given in the infographic. The survey has run again over recent months, and we hope to provide stronger data to benchmark, and better data to advocate on the sector’s behalf, soon.

You can find the interactive infographic below. Please note that this may take a little while to load onto the page.

2019 Museums Survey

In the period between the survey being conducted and published, the museums sector in London was overtaken by the covid-19 pandemic, an unprecedented threat to the museum and culture sector and wider economy. London‘s smaller independent museums were among those at most immediate risk of insolvency and permanent closure.

The Survey Highlights report (PDF 3mb, opens in a new tab) therefore focused on the contribution of these museums to the cultural and wider economic life of the capital, and reflected on what would be lost if they were forced to close permanently.

The full report (PDF 1.6mb, opens in a new tab) containing the detailed findings of the 2019 survey can also be downloaded.

2018 Museums Survey

2018 was the first year in which the survey was conducted across London non-national museums within the Museum Accreditation scheme. Within the first year the strongest, and therefore statistically most robust, return came from local authority museums. The 2018 Museums Survey Headlines therefore focused on this part of the London museums sector (PDF 3mb, opens in new tab). You can also download the full report, detailed findings of the 2018 survey (PDF 1mb, opens in new tab).

The 2018 Museums Survey Headlines paper was published at the London Museum Development conference on 13 March 2019. You can watch a video of Ben Travers speaking about the 2018 Survey at the conference.