The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic affecting the world has had a huge impact on museum exhibitions. First, museums across Japan were forced to temporarily close because of a governmental request in February 2020 to voluntarily refrain from large-scale events. Following, repeated declarations of a State of Emergency and Quasi-State of Emergency forced museums to cancel and postpone many exhibitions. The Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN) has been collecting information about exhibitions held in Japan since 1935 and stores them in a public database (https://www.tobunken.go.jp/archives/information-search/art-exhibitons/?lang=en). Since May 2020, TOBUNKEN started collecting information of exhibitions impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, which it published as a database (Japanese only.) (https://www.tobunken.go.jp/materials/exhibition_covid19)
This database tabulates the status of exhibitions handling cultural properties, including cancelation, postponement, and early closure primarily for museum members of the Japan Association of Museums (https://www.j-muse.or.jp/en/index.php). Before the pandemic, the information was collected based on printing materials such as leaflets and catalogues, annual calendars, and museums’ websites. However, the information is updated on a daily basis under the pandemic’s unpredictable situation; to every extent possible, we collected data widely from SNS such as Twitter and Facebook in addition to museum websites, including the duration of temporary closures and schedule changes. Collected data included 1,406 pieces of information that show the impact on museums over the last two years. During the COVID-19 pandemic, changes occurred: planned exhibitions (or rotating exhibitions) using their own collection were planned or held, instead of cancelling or postponing special exhibitions. More operations using SNS and online contents occurred.
Even now though many museums are free from requested or forced temporary closure, they must still take preventive measures against COVID-19, such as advance registration systems, visitor number limitations, and museum sterilization. It is predicted that exhibition operations will continue to be affected. TOBUNKEN will continue to collect information and analyze long-term impacts on museums.