UK Literary Heritage Sites and Covid-19: measuring impact, enhancing resilience, and learning lessons.

Lead Research Organisation: University of Huddersfield
Department Name: Sch of Music Humanities & Media

Abstract

Across the UK there are around 70 museums in writers' homes and birthplaces open to the public. Some are world famous, attracting big annual footfall; some are run on a shoestring by small groups of volunteers. All will have been profoundly impacted by Covid-19, in ways unique to the sector. Most will have tried to develop new ways of engaging with the public during lockdown and the subsequent restrictions. The impact of the pandemic and the responses to it remain unknown, unquantified, and unanalysed.

The UK's literary heritage sites include museums dedicated to globally renowned household names such as Shakespeare, Dickens, Austen, and Burns, as well as to underappreciated national treasures such as Laurence Sterne, Elizabeth Gaskell, and Horace Walpole. The challenges faced by the literary heritage sector during Covid-19 are different from those faced by other museums, stately homes, and heritage sites, and there is reason to believe that the sector has been hit particularly badly by Covid-19 issues, with several key sites ineligible for or unsuccessful in securing financial support from government.

Above all, the study will seek to identify and quantify the challenges posed to UK literary heritage sites by Covid-19, to evaluate and compare responses between sites, and to help this world-class sector develop its future resilience.

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