Visiting museums in the future

By | Category: Travel rumblings
interior of the National Museum

inside the National Museum in Edinburgh,

As I have mentioned before, a visit to a museum or gallery is a necessary diversion on a rainy or cold day but how much linger will that last?

The latest report from the Museums Association says that 24% of museums in the UK had a decrease in public funding in 2015-16. That masks some strong regional differences.  64% of museums in Wales reported a cut to public income compared to 50% in Scotland, 43% in Northern Ireland and 21% in England.

Within England, London and the North East experienced the greatest drops in public income, with 30% of museums in each of those regions experiencing a cut.

The report covers 22% of all known museums and from that it concludes that the average cost of admission was £5.48 for an adult and £3.50 for a child. National Trust properties reported the highest average entry cost at £8.41 some 50% above the average while university museums had the lowest at charge at just 75p.

Despite these cuts, almost half of all museums reported a year-on-year increase in visitor numbers and fewer than 2% raised prices.

But at least 64 museums have closed across the UK since 2010, including recent closures in Lancashire, Dudley and Kirklees. Fifteen alone closed last year. Should these cuts continue more closures must be expected.

Museums are being more creative in the ways that they try and raise money from visitors but does this become counter-productive? Do some councils see that extra cash and decide that museums need less support from the public purse? And so a spiral starts: more fundraising, less support from local government. There is an argument that museums should be self-funding and, obviously, many independent ones are. But do public museums have a civic role to play which means that they must do things which independent ones will eschew in order to get visitors through the doors?

Do lower subsidies mean that fewer museums will be refurbished and made more appealing to visitors? It doesn’t look like it. There is anecdotal evidence, the Museum Association says, “to suggest that funders, including some local authorities, are choosing to invest in capital projects in order to enhance the long-term sustainability and viability of museums, in the hope that they will become self-sustaining while their core funding is being reduced.”

In the economic section of the report the association says that more research is needed. Visit Britain, for example, says that for every £1 it spends on international marketing it generates £23 for the economy. What is needed is a similar figure to show how much revenue having a museum brings to the local economy. In that way it would be easier to justify or increase spend on museums, galleries and other attractions.


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