The show must go on… line. Museums and their audiences during the lockdown in Italy


As museums worldwide were forced to close in 2020, the overall attendance of the world’s 100 most- visited art museums dramatically dropped by 77% in 2020—from 230 million in 2019 to just 54 million. COVID-19 has acted as a huge crash test “on the role, structure and functioning of museums. It has increased the existing gaps and differences (…), has demonstrated that lacking skills and knowledge, lacking flexibility and agile structures as well as diverse sources of income can lead to museums having to decrease or abolish their main activities and tasks in service of society, or even facing the threat of permanent closure” (NEMO 2021). On the other hand, the pandemic shock forced museums to become aware of the importance of digital resources as a tool to keep alive their relationship with their audiences and to activate new relationships with new demand segments, which so far were unreachable.

Based upon an online survey carried out in Italy among museumgoers during the lockdown, the article describes how the virtual visitors evaluate their experience of digital contents and discusses how the future scenarios – the New Normal - will be shaped by lessons learned and new, emerging audiences.

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