Visitors Double at National Museums and Galleries in England Following Free Admission For All [ added 6/02]
Visitors at the Victoria and Albert Museum have rocketed from under 43K in December 2000 to 174,249 in December 2001 following the introduction of free admission. Similar increases are evident across the South Kensington museums, with those at the Museum of London doubling. This follows the pattern set in Wales, where The National Museums and Galleries went free for all on April 1st 2001 and by November had experienced an 88% increase in visitor numbers over their eight sites.
To quote artist Cornelia Parker, currently showing the new British Galleries of the V& A, free admission is "the mark of a civilised society." On the government’s part it is a vote of confidence in the importance of collections and the work of museums and galleries and one upon which they now have to build by addressing the recommendations of Renaissance in the Regions, the Regional Task Force for Museums and Galleries recently published report.
Standing by its pre election promise the Government has put in place a number of steps to enable the charging National Museums to drop charges for admission to their core collections from 1st December. (Most notably it has amended VAT regulations for National Museums and Galleries to free them from the necessity to charge in order to become VAT registered and thereby be eligible to reclaim VAT). Sustainability does remain an issue – especially as the British Museum’s deficit appears to worsen - as is the funding of all the other organisations still caught within the VAT trap – the latter remains an agenda item for VAGA. The Art Fund (NACF) led the Free for All Campaign, if you require more detailed information please contact Ben Petter, Political Assistant, NACF, 020 225 4844.