72% drop in visitors to Croatian museums in 2020

© Rijeka 2020 Person wearing a mouth and nose mask is standing in a gallery together with her dog. She is looking at one of many exhibited sweatshirts that are hanging from the ceiling.

© Rijeka 2020

The pandemic and the devastating Zagreb earthquakes have severely impacted the number of visitors to Croatian museums. In 2020 the museums experienced a drop of nearly 4 million visitors from 5.2 million in 2019 to 1,462,667.

A survey conducted by the Museum Documentation Center (MDC) presents data collected from 130 out of 162 museums listed in the Register of Public and Private Museums, representing a response rate of 80.2%.

Museums in Croatia were closed for one month in connection with a national Covid-19 lockdown. However, data on attendance is similar as in countries that still have not reopened their cultural institutions. One of the factors that further devastated Croatian museums was the 22 March earthquake. One-third of the museums in Zagreb closed their permanent exhibitions due to damages to the buildings, losing over a million visitors last year, or 78.5%—from 1,365,348 visitors in 2019 to 293,002 visitors in 2020. As the most visited museum in Zagreb, the Klovićevi dvori Gallery marked an 84% drop, followed by the earthquake-damaged Museum of Arts and Crafts and the Technical Museum Nikola Tesla with a 78% and 79% drop, respectively.

A million visitors also disappeared in the category of foreign tourists, which, in recent years, have constituted almost a quarter of all visitors to Croatian museums. In 2020, an 81% drop was reported, from 1,228,216 tourists in 2019 to 233,341 in 2020.

The Archaeological Museum of Istria, the most visited museum in Croatia for the last six years, held on to its top ranking with 163,657 visitors despite the 71% slump in 2020. Dubrovnik Museums, in the top five of the most visited museums for years, lost 86% of their visitors in 2020, and the Museums of Hrvatsko Zagorje, the fifth most visited museum last year, broke into the second place in 2020 because they had "only" lost 65.6%.

The attendance of students and young people is another category with a worrying 83% decline. With visits to museums being almost exclusively organized by school institutions, due to school closures and cancellations of school trips, the attendance dropped from 750,344 in 2019 to 122,675 in 2020.