May 15, 2020

Museums and libraries contribute billions to Canadian economy and societal well-being: Study

Canada gains nearly $8.6 billion a year in economic benefits, in addition to a myriad of social advantages, from the existence of non-profit galleries, libraries, archives and museums (GLAMs), according to a new study commissioned by the Ottawa Declaration Working Group; a consortium of stakeholders co-led by the Canadian Museums Association (CMA) and Library and Archives Canada (LAC). The findings were made public today on the CMA’s website, during International Museum Week, which runs from May 11 to 17, 2020.

“For every dollar invested in these non-profit institutions, society gets nearly four dollars in benefits  — a return that is on par with government investments in transportation infrastructure projects,” notes Prof. Jack Lohman, CBE, President of the Canadian Museums Association. “Now, more than ever, is a critical time to ensure that museums have adequate funding. We must fully recognize that the GLAM sector feeds the economy and innovation, and forms an integral part of the fabric of our nation, benefiting Canadians of all ages, backgrounds and regions.”

A key finding of this study is that users of these institutions would be willing to spend $4 billion more per year to access them if required — a testament to just how much they value GLAMs. In fact, 96% of respondents surveyed for the study said that museums contribute to our quality of life. Even non-users recognize their intrinsic importance to society at large and to future generations. Non-users said they would be prepared to contribute $22 per year for museums, $17 for galleries and libraries and $14 for archives as a donation towards the maintenance of these institutions. This amounts to an additional $2.2 billion per year.

Another way for users to interact directly with GLAMs is through their official websites, online catalogues and social media pages. The study pegged the value of these online visits at $1.6 billion per year, and this was before the pandemic, during which time more museums than ever before have been offering virtual options for the public to engage with their collections.

It also noted GLAMs generate significant educational benefits for Canada, including through school visits which provide children across the country with important learning opportunities. The value of these visits is estimated at $3.1 billion. It was further found that academic libraries contribute an additional $3.4 billion and are associated with higher student wages and income over the working lifetime of students.

GLAM visits are associated with a number of other important societal benefits including greater literacy, curiosity, innovation, knowledge and creativity, increased rates of volunteerism and a better sense of community. The study concluded visiting GLAMs is also associated with improved individual health and wellbeing. The impact of visiting these institutions has the same impact on a person as receiving a monetary bonus of $1,440 a year.

This was the first time that a study of this scope — covering the entire GLAM sector—has been conducted in Canada.

Related links:
Value Study of GLAMs In Canada