The energy crisis has UK museums worried they won’t be able to keep their doors open as winter heating bills are estimated to cost as much as five times more this year.

British museums have been in the news a lot lately. Namely, for the institutions’ massive collections of cultural artifacts plundered from former colonies of the British empire. And, perhaps more importantly, the ongoing conversations (and refusals) to return said artifacts to their homes. 

However, one conversation the museums of the UK cannot ignore presently is that of greater Europe’s energy crisis and the forecasted long winter ahead. 

This summer saw blazing record-setting temperatures and wildfires. And while those issues have cooled off, for now, this fall won’t mark the end of the continent’s struggles with climate. Inflation and ballooning energy costs, driven in large part by Russia’s war with Ukraine, will be a big stress for businesses, institutions, schools, and individuals alike as they try to stay warm through the winter.

Sharon Heal, the director of the UK Museums Association, said in August that she’d been hearing growing concern from many of the organization’s 1,800 member institutions about being able to afford their heating bills and stay open at all.

“We are getting concerned calls almost every day from institutions saying their anticipated energy bills are five times what they were last year,” Heal says. “They say: ‘This is the dealbreaker for us. This is worse than COVID.’”