Danish museums struggle with increasing energy costs despite return of visitors

© Image: Christian Fregnan Between two hugs paintings is the silhouette of a person walking exactly between them.

© Image: Christian Fregnan

A recent report by the Association of Danish Museums shows that the high energy prices are hitting the museums hard. Some museums even indicate that they might have to lay off staff or reduce opening hours. Even though another report shows that the visitor numbers in Denmark are almost back to pre-pandemic figures.  

After analysing the survey results on energy costs, the Association of Danish Museums reports that:

  • Every fifth museum manager predicts layoffs or other reductions in staff in 2023.
  • Up to one in four museums is considering reducing the opening hours.
  • Others consider reducing, for example, events and school visits or temporary closing one or more museum departments.
  • Only 6% do not pay for electricity and/or heating by themselves.

Some responding museums indicated that they may have to raise ticket prices in 2023 to cover the costs. Several commented that they already have reduced the heating and introduced other quick energy saving measures.

Considering climate control regulations to keep objects in the collections safe, Claus K. Jensen, the head of the Association of Danish Museums, says that "We call on the government to find a solution that compensates the museums for the part of the extra expenses that they have no chance of raising themselves, namely the conservation obligation. The energy crisis must not threaten our common cultural heritage".

Visitors are returning

On a more positive note, 2022 visitor numbers indicate that the audience is returning to the museums. After several years of low visitor statistics due to Covid-19, visitor numbers are almost back at the same level as before the pandemic. However, considering the increase in energy costs, the positive trend in visitors, and therefore increase in ticket income, is not likely to generate significant positive effects for museums’ financial situation.

The report Undersøgelse blandt ODM’s medlemmer om besøgstal 2022 (in Danish) on museum visitor numbers in 2022 shows that:

  • Overall, the number of visitors has fallen approx. 3-4% from 2019 – 2022.
  • However, approximately 20% of museums have noted a certain slowdown compared to 2019.
  • 66% experience the same or higher visitor numbers in 2022 compared to 2019.
  • Of the 31% who have lower visitor numbers than in 2019, approximately 10% were closed for renovation, remodelling, etc.