Friday, September 22, 2006

Mixed Fortunes for Britain's Museums

Whilst Tate Britain had a record 1.7 million visitors in 2005, things are not quite so rosey elsewhere in the UK Museum's sector. A core of government backed museums that contain national collections have been free entry since December 2001, which has resulted in enormous numbers of visitors to them from both the UK and overseas, with rises of up to 75% in visitor numbers. This in itself can cause problems through extra staff being required, and additional wear and tear on facilities that is not always paid for through only mildly increased revenues from Museums' retail operations.

The increase in competition from high profile 'national' free entry museums has proven to be a contributory factor in the demise of some of Britain's smaller independent museums that need to charge an entry fee to remain buoyant. The Cumberland Toy and Model Museum is one such example where increasing costs and reduced visitor numbers have lead to the closure of the museum, which in 1995 won the National Heritage Shoestring Award for achieving the best results with limited resources. Other museums that have closed include the London Toy and Model Museum, and the Museum of the Moving Image, London.

Of course it would be unwise to blame the demise of one museum solely on the fortunes of another, the fact is that there are a rapidly increasing number of products and services that are competing for our disposable income and recreation time, and this is a trend that is set to continue and grow. The sad reality for many small independent organisations in the museums sector (and the Entertainment industry as a whole) is that unless continually new and innovative methods (which are often costly) are used to attract visitors, then further reductions in numbers are likely, which may mean further closures.

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