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consequences corona crisis for museum

Today, 25 April, Hartenstein has existed for 155 years. Unfortunately, there is no reason to celebrate. The Airborne Museum at Hartenstein faces immense difficulties.

The masterplan has been carried out completely with fantastic results. When walking through the new museum halls, with oak flooring and beautiful museum cases with anti-reflective coating, we are proud of the result. The museum cases are filled with unique objects from our collection and some prestigious loans which tell personal stories from veterans and civilians—supported by museum texts and a multilingual audio tour. A completely renewed interactive programme has been developed for children as well as a temporary exhibition based on the book Watership Down. In this exhibition we teach children about freedom, the meaning of democracy and the consequences of the absence of a rule of law through the world-famous story of Richard Adams’s rabbit warren.

While exciting, seeing this amazing result hurts as well, because we cannot share our new museum with you and other visitors. The corona crisis resulted in a cancelled opening ceremony which was to take place on 13 March (the day the corona measures were enacted in the Netherlands) and a closed museum, but also in major financial troubles. Within the first 24 hours of the press conference announcing the measures, we received 20,000 cancellations from foreign tour operators. These visitors will not come back later on in 2020.

We are expecting a loss of at least 300,000 euros. This is a major problem for the museum and we would like to tell you why. The Airborne Museum usually has very balanced operating costs and the recent large investments for the restoration and renewal of the museum have been financed within our projected budgets. Generating more income has been part of the museum’s new policy (since 2016) and led to an increase of the turnover with 13% in 2018 when compared to 2015. In 2017, 2018, and 2019, the museum continually broke visitor records and the number of visitors rose from 120,000 in 2017 to 155,000 in 2019. In addition, the museum has received much funding in the last few years to produce temporary exhibitions and create educational programmes. We were doing incredibly well, as we cannot rely on government support for our operating costs.

The museum yearly earns at least 95% if its operating costs from entrance fees, the museum shop, the museum café, and rentals and is dependent on these sources of income. Less then 5% of the operating costs of Hartenstein, 40,000 euros, originate from the municipality of Renkum. After subtracting free entrance for primary school students from the municipality, real estate tax, municipal administrative expenses and signing, approximately 28,000 euros of this funding remains in liquid assets to support the operating costs. The costs to maintain the museum’s collection and archive of over 21,000 historical objects, which is a requirement of registered museums in the Netherlands, are twice as large. To put things in perspective: the museum’s budget of 2020 is almost 1,800,000 euros. The net funding makes up approximately 1,5% of that. The organisation’s dependence on entrance fees and related activities for the operating costs is similar to the dependence of the hotel and catering industry and the retail industry on their public.

It can be called unique within the Netherlands that a museum with so few staff members (6fte) and so little structural funding can produce such results. We are especially proud that 25% of daytrips in the municipality of Renkum are to the museum. In 2018, the board of the Airborne Museum Foundation determined that, to be safe, the museum was to have a reserve of at least 250,000 euros. In 2015 this reserve was approximately 230,000 euros. On 31 December 2019 this reserve was 293,509 euros. The reserve can only grow with small amounts of 6,000 to 10,000 euros each year because the museum has high structural costs that cannot be cut back. For this reason the yearly growth is limited. In addition, the museum has a small staff, every vital position is filled by only one person, often part-time. We are largely dependent on our 120 volunteers.

When looking ahead, we expect that this terrible crisis will continue and that in the first few months of reopening, we will only be allowed to admit a limited number of visitors according to the rules and regulations set by the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment. Our perspective at the moment: foresight is the essence of government.

To  cope with the financial consequences we have taken the following steps:

  • We applied for the Temporary Emergency Measure for Sustained Employment (NOW) made available by to state to be compensated for our labour costs.
  • We applied for a delay of our tax payments.
  • We made several payment arrangements with our suppliers so financial commitments could be spread out over a larger term. All suppliers have agreed to do this.
  • We have asked for an advance of 10% from all foundations who have agreed to support our masterplan. Ordinarily, foundations give an advance of 80% and the museum receives the last 20% after completion. All foundations have agreed to do this.
  • The majority of our volunteers have refused their volunteer compensations for 2020.
  • We are preparing provisions for credit losses through a mortgage loan to cover our losses (and the shortage at the end of 2020). To get the most favourable terms for this loan, we have asked the four Airborne municipalities (Renkum, Arnhem, Ede, and Overbetuwe) and the province of Gelderland for support. Our request for help consists primarily of a guarantee in order to get the lowest interest rate possible. Moreover, we are investigating if we are eligible for the emergency package for the cultural sector. This emergency package exists primarily for cultural institutions in the so called Basic Infrastructure that receive state funding. At the moment, this emergency package might be available to regional and local museums, if they receive additional financial support from the municipality and/or the province as well. It is not yet clear if this will work as the conditions for this emergency package have not yet been made public.

What remains is to ask our supporters to aid the museum financially through a donation. You donate to guarantee the continued existence of the museum.

The museum has a cultural ANBI-status, comparable to a Public Benefit Organisation (PBO), and your donation could possibly be tax-deductible. If you wish to show your support and want to help us to get through this financially difficult period, you can do so in the following ways:

  1. You can donate an amount of your choosing on the ticketing page of our museum website.
  2. You can buy a friend membership at airbornemuseum.nl/en/support-us/friends-membership. With this membership you can visit the museum for free for a year.
  3. You can directly transfer a donation to bank account number NL89RABO 03850 33648 in the name of ‘Airborne Museum’. Please put “GIFT” in the description.
  4. You can send an email to boekingen@airbornemuseum.nl and write the amount that you wish to donate. You will receive a payment request from us through iDEAL.

Should you have any questions after reading this message, you are more than welcome to contact Sarah Heijse, director-manager at sheijse@airbornemuseum.nl.