Local museums struggling to bounce back after Covid-19

Museum in Brittany (France) closes and auctions its collection due to financial difficulties

One of the items up for sale is a BMW 328 Baby from 1976. Image: John Llyod, via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
One of the items up for sale is a BMW 328 Baby from 1976. Image: John Llyod, via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

This is a sad week for Michel Craneguy and his wife Mariannick, who run Le musée des Arts, métiers et commerces (Museum for Arts, Crafts and Commerce) in Saint-Gildas-de-Rhuys. The museum closed in October last year as they searched for someone to continue their work. Without a new buyer, however, the couple has been forced into selling the collection.

Michel, 74, and his wife began the museum in 1993. Now, disheartened, they have brought in an auction company to find new owners for their objects.

“I’m a little sad, I’ve dedicated my life to this museum,” says Michel. “It was a lot of work behind, to unearth all that.” [Translated from French].

The museum is a curious collection, with a diverse range of objects dating back to the 18th century. There’s everything from veterinary equipment from the 1900 to a 1970s child sized BMW. Visitors to the museum could see packed rooms on various themes, including a historic school room and an old grocery store. Now, the only way to experience this unique atmosphere of French nostalgia is through photographs on the museum website – which may also disappear with time.

There are 2237 lots going up for auction, which includes over 3000 objects. The four day auction ends on the 16th April, with 76 full pages of catalogue up for sale.

Uncertain times for museums

For collectors, this auction is a precious opportunity. For museum and heritage professionals, it may be another sign of a struggling sector as the pandemic gradually recedes. While there is a sense of recovery for the cultural sector, many local museums may not be able to bounce back. Public museums have better access to funding, whereas private museums have to rely on ticket sales – which are yet to reach their pre-pandemic levels.

Quirky, independent, and community museums may be an unfortunate victim of these times. At times when museums have to adapt and become more efficient, some museums may simply not survive. Furthermore, emergency funding is starting to run out and heritage sites now need to push to get visitors through the door.

For Michel Craneguy, the only hope is that other museums show interest in the objects: “it would be my dream now: that collections go back to different museums”.

The past few years have been very difficult for many cultural heritage sites and museums. How have your local museums coped? Let us know in the comment section below or send us an email at [email protected]

Read the full story at Ouest-France (French), or check out the tags below for more museum news.

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