Museum celebrates 10 years of free entry

01 December 2011

The Natural History Museum joins other UK national museums today in celebrating 10 years of free entry.

The free admission policy has been an overwhelming success, dramatically boosting visitor figures. In the past 10 years visits to the formerly charging national museums have increased by 150%. 

Madeleine May was the 25 millionth visitor to the Museum since free entry began in December 2001.

Madeleine May was the 25 millionth visitor to the Museum since free entry began in December 2001.

The Natural History Museum’s visitor numbers have risen from 1.7 million in 2000 to 4.8 million last year. ‘This is a fantastic testament to the huge public appetite for museums, the quality of our visitor offer and the success of the free admission policy,’ says Dr Michael Dixon, Director of the Natural History Museum and Chair of the National Museum Directors’ Conference (NMDC).

The Museum has welcomed more than 35 million visitors in the past 10 years, which is an increase of 187% on the previous decade. Visitors can explore for free the beautiful galleries, exhibitions, exciting events, talks and tours, and interact with real scientists at work in the state-of-the-art Darwin Centre.

Free admission is more important than ever at a time of economic recovery, offering people free, inspiring experiences and attracting audiences from home and abroad. 

Sandie Dawe, Chief Executive of VisitBritain says, 'The UK has 3 of the top 5 most visited museums and galleries in the world, all of which are free to enjoy.  It is little wonder then that a visit to a museum is one of the most popular activities undertaken by many of the 30 million international visitors who come here each year. As well as being major draws, we estimate that Britain’s unique culture and great heritage attracts £4.5bn worth of spending by inbound visitors annually and thereby underpins more than 100,000 jobs across the length and breadth of the country.'

Free admission is only possible through the ongoing commitment of Central Government. 'The funding settlement for national museums in the last spending review recognised the front line nature of museum services and the importance of maintaining free admission,' said Dr Dixon.  

'The current economic climate means an extremely difficult time for museums of all kinds, which are crucial to communities across the UK. Whilst recognising that funding has been hit very hard, we hope Local Authorities can be as far-sighted as possible in decisions on cultural funding, as severe cuts in this area are counter-productive in so many ways.'

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