In just a few short weeks the Covid-19 lockdown has thrown the museum sector into an unprecedented financial crisis, with hundreds of institutions fearful that they may not be able to reopen after the pandemic has passed.
But people are also finding creative new ways to raise donations and numerous grassroots fundraising initiatives for museums, art and heritage have started springing up, many led by visitors.
Some are already beginning to see encouraging results; last week, a seven-year-old boy, Jonah, ran a quiz in aid of Dr Jenner’s House – where vaccine pioneer Edward Jenner lived – that has so far raised £1,795 in donations, far exceeding its £1,000 target.
Creswell Crags prehistoric heritage site in Northamptonshire, which warned weeks ago that it was facing insolvency, says many people were inspired to donate to its fundraising campaign thanks to a design-a-poster competition for children. The site has so far raised more than £19,000 in donations and Gift Aid towards its £50,000 target.
Several fundraisers have also been set up to raise money for the museum and heritage sector more broadly.
The podcast channel History Hit has launched a campaign to raise at least £10,000 for small UK museums and heritage sites affected by the crisis. The campaign, which the historian Dan Snow has lent his voice to, encourages listeners to read out their favourite historical source such as a letter or a diary entry, share it on social media and make a donation.
The organisers are enlisting other prominent historians to take part and hope to turn the campaign into a viral challenge. They are encouraging museums and heritage sites to promote it among their audiences. The money raised will be distributed in grants to institutions that are particularly at risk as a result of the pandemic.
Meanwhile, another Covid-19 digital fundraiser is taking place this weekend, organised by Pitt Rivers curator Dan Hicks. The fundraiser is the culmination of Hicks’s month-long #MuseumsUnlocked initiative, which encouraged visitors to share photos and memories of museum visits, focusing on a different place each day.
On 2 and 3 May, visitors across the UK will be encouraged to share some digital content about a museum or gallery they love under the hashtag #MuseumUnlocked, and include a link to that organisation’s giving page.
Although the campaign is primarily visitor-led, museums and galleries with active fundraising campaigns are invited to join in and spread the word among their followers and supporters.
Hicks said: “The hope is that, with so many museums facing financial pressure due to Covid lockdowns, #MuseumsUnlocked will be able to use the momentum generated during April to give these fundraising programmes a boost, at such a crucial time for the sector.”
Image shows a detail from one of the winning posters Creswell Crags’ design-a-poster competition, designed by Bronte