Alarming statistics from Croatia, where the museum sector lost more than 4 million visitors in 2020. Only 1.462.667 people visited a museum or gallery last year. In comparison to the 5.2m visitors in 2019, attendance rates have dropped by an astronomical 72%.
The level of Croatian museum visits is now back to the level of twenty years ago. In 2001 the number of visitors exceeded 1m for the first time. The lockdown for Croatian museums only lasted a month and a half. However, a survey conducted by Museum Documentation Center (MDC) showed that museums were hit hard by the Zagreb earthquake of March 22, reported Jutarnji list in February.
Due to damaged buildings, one-third of the permanent exhibitions of Zagreb’s museums remained closed. The MDC estimates museums lost one million visitors this way. The Klovićevi Dvori Gallery, the most visited museum in Zagreb in 2020, saw attendance rates drop by 84%. The earthquake-damaged Museum of Arts and Crafts welcomed 78% fewer visitors. The Nikola Tesla Technical Museum also reported a 79% drop in visits.
Not only locals lost their way to the museum. The MDC reported only 233.341 tourists visited Croatian museums in 2020. In 2019 there were still 1.228.216 tourists attending, marking an 81% drop. This percentage is probably even higher since some museums do not register this category of visitors. The drop in tourist visits marks at least a quarter of the total attendance loss.
What is certain in these uncertain times is that the road to recovery will take years
In Europe and the rest of the world, the pandemic also caused losses of millions of visitors and hundreds of millions of euros in earnings. The MDC concludes: ”What is certain in these uncertain times is that the road to recovery will take years.” It believes that the museum sector should turn to their material, institutions and the local environment to recover. ”We need to think about new models of work and relations with the communities we serve.”