Report shows over a quarter of museum freelancers plan to look for work outside the sector

The Museum Freelance Network has published research findings on the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic on the museum freelance community showing a “devastating impact” on income, work and mental health.

04 Dec 2020

The research is based on a survey carried out in November on freelancers working across museums, heritage sites, galleries, archives and libraries. Headline findings include:

  • 78% of respondents have seen drop in income March to October 2020 compared to the same period in 2019
  • 52% have had one or more projects/contracts cancelled and 63% have had one or more projects/contracts postponed
  • 53% haven't been eligible for the government's SEISS (Self-Employment Income Support Scheme) 
  • 67% have had to find alternative sources of income (including using savings, borrowing, receiving a grant) 
  • 37% are going to look for or start freelance work outside the cultural/heritage sector in the next six months.

Risk of loss of skills and expertise

The study shows that while the majority of respondents plan to continue freelancing inside the heritage sector, a worrying 40% intend to look for freelance work outside the sector. This presents a serious risk that the experience and expertise of these freelancers is lost, as they look for income and opportunities in other industries. 

Throughout the pandemic, Icon has highlighted the acute need to support the ecosystem of small conservation businesses to avoid the loss of skills. The skills and expertise of the self-employed and freelance conservators play a vital role providing institutions with not only conservation services but also supporting public engagement and other specialist services. Without regular commissions, private practitioners may be forced to stop trading and clients will find it increasingly difficult to source suitable professionals to undertake conservation projects. 

Icon welcomes the Museum Freelance Network’s important research and will use the findings to help tailor support for conservators. We are also currently running our own survey to understand the effects of the Coronavirus pandemic specific to the conservation sector.

Do you work in conservation? Please donate 10 minutes of your time and fill out our Coronavirus Impact survey by 9 December. If you are an emerging professional in conservation, please fill out our Emerging Professionals Network survey.

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Image: Creative Commons