You know the economy is really in bad shape when even a venerable institution like the Principality’s flagship museum is short of funds and calls for help
Getting requests for donations to save a cultural institution in the post-lockdown era has become part of everyday life. But for the Institute of Oceanography in Monaco to pass the hat around is unexpected. But then again, maybe not if you consider that the Institute and its Oceanographic Museum is actually a non-profit organization which largely depends on admission fees and events rentals to finance the continuity of its activities. With an unexpected and enforced two month hiatus (and counting), it therefore faces the same financial hardships as many other organizations and individuals.
Dedicated to the Ocean and the marine sciences, the Oceanographic Institute was created as a public interest foundation in 1906 by Prince Albert I, an extraordinary humanist and visionary. Since then, it has been working to increase understanding of the ocean, to create awareness of the challenges we face, to cultivate awe of marine life, to stimulate creativity and initiatives, and to prepare for the future. Monaco’s present ruler, HSH Prince Albert II, carries on his great-great-grandfather’s work and research with great devotion. This year 2020 was to be dedicated to corals, the unsung heroes of the underwater world. But this is not a year like any other, and the Musée Océanographique de Monaco has therefore launched an appeal:
Of the museum’s normal annual revenue of €14 million (which breaks even with expenses), approximately €10m are derived from ticket sales, merchandise, events, etc. The Princely Government of Monaco injects another €3m, and a collective €1m is gifted by various institutional and private donors. But due to the lack of admission/sales revenue over a minimum of two months, and despite tightening the belt through staff furlough and paring down the annual budget to the max, there is a gaping hole of about €4 million net in the coffers, risking the continuity of activities, events, and campaigns.
Ocean health, nature, people and animals are interdependent, and making the right choices to reverse the devastating destructive processes and ensuring a more sustainable future becomes crucial. “The crisis we are going through make even more crying the need to reinvent ourselves from scratch, to rebuild the link between Man, Species, the Planet, the Ocean,” says the Institute’s General Director Robert Calcagno. “This is why, more than ever, we need your donations to get through this crisis, to face it and to prepare the future with you, with greater determination and enthusiasm.”
The museum, which in its 114 year history has never been closed for more than two days, was forced to shut its doors at the beginning of the mandatory lockdown in March. However, life inside goes on. A skeleton staff of fishkeepers and technicians ensure that the resident fauna of 6,000 fish, turtles, and corals is well fed and cared for, and that the basins are kept in pristine condition. The museum also used the downtime to deep-clean its exhibition halls. The mosaic in the entrance hall received a makeover. Preparations are underway to ensure a reopening, whenever it is possible, in the best sanitary conditions. And management has kept in touch with friends and supporters through regular communications and newsletters showing that its commitment to defending the health of the Ocean never waivers, regardless of whatever hardships and hurdles need to be overcome.
Throughout a regular year, the Institute of Oceanography works at a national and international level to link decision-makers, scientists, economic players, associations, and the general public. Thanks to its sponsors and donors, it can develop various programmes which are presented to the public at the Oceanographic Museum in Monaco and the Maison des Océans in Paris, via publications and digital tools, and through collaborators. The focal points of this work includes
✓ the care of animals at the Monegasque Marine Species Care Centre,
✓ the establishment of major mediation programmes
✓ to reveal the secrets of underwater life with its aquariums
✓ to celebrate science and ocean champions through prestigious awards,
✓ to propose new experiences with ever more innovative exhibitions,
✓ to educate youth through pedagogic activities, and
✓ to preserve a heritage dedicated to the Ocean.
To make a donation means to belong to a community. It is a concrete commitment alongside the Oceanographic Institute to build “the Ocean of Tomorrow”. Each donation is fully used for the actions it carries out in favour of the marine world and according to priority needs. Can the Monaco Oceanographic Museum count on your help to continue its mission?
Lead image © M. Dagnino, courtesy Musée Océanographic; photo of octopus © Natja Igney