Statistics: Museum attendance in Estonia hits 18-year low

Visitors at an exhibition at the Museum of New Art (UKM) in Pärnu.
Visitors at an exhibition at the Museum of New Art (UKM) in Pärnu. Source: Museum of New Art, Pärnu

Last year, 174 museums with 229 museum sites in Estonia were visited nearly 1.7 million times, down 59,000 from 2020 figures and marking the lowest number of museum visits in 18 years, Statistics Estonia said on Friday.

The fall in museum attendance in the past two years has been strongly linked to the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting nationwide restrictions and waves of infections, Statistics Estonia analyst Erik Lest said according to a press release.

"This year, however, promises to be brighter for museums, as there was no significant drop in attendance in 201 compared with 2020, and the lifting of restrictions may encourage people to engage in cultural activities again," he added.

In 2021, museum attendance per 1,000 residents stood at 1,261, with the highest attendance recorded in Saare and Lääne counties at 3,062 and 2,978, respectively, and the lowest in Viljandi and Rapla counties, at 289 and 224, respectively.

Museum attendance by county per thousand ihhabitants, 2021 (in purple) vs 2020 (in pink). Source: Statistics Estonia

The COVID pandemic also had an impact on foreign tourist activity. While more than 320,000 foreign tourists visited Estonian museums in 2020, this figure dropped by a quarter to just under 240,000 last year.

"In 2019, every third museum visit was made by a foreign tourist, while in 2020 it was every fifth, and in 2021 every seventh visit," Lest said.

The most common types of museum in Estonia are place-centered museums focusing on a particular place or region (85), thematic museums focusing on a specific theme (64), and archaeology and history museums (43).

Last year, museums employed a total of 1,566 people, indicating a slight increase on year. These employees' hours equaled 1,420 jobs in full-time equivalents.

1,078 exhibitions were held in museums last year, which is 97 more than during the year before.

Click here for more information on museums published by Statistics Estonia.


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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