Entry to National Museums has been free since Labour abolished charging in 2001. The upshot was that attendance in 2002 soared by 2.7 million or 62%, as more and more people felt able to casually pop in, for a short visit without paying an entrance fee. The figures announced by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport showed that attendances at department-sponsored institutions rose to 7,031,722 in the seven months from December to June 2002 compared with 4,327,520 in the same period the previous year. Regional figures were 1,556,955 and 1,072,883 respectively. It has been on the Conservatives radar for a number of years to reintroduce a fee-paying structure for National Museums. In 2007 Hugo Swirea, a senior Tory and Shadow Culture Minister, suggested that charges be implemented. Mr Swire, a former head of development at the National Gallery and director of the art auctioneers Sotheby’s, was forced to make a U-turn within hours amid a backlash from MPs and senior figures from education and British cultural life. Last year Mayor Boris Johnson stated, “Visitors to museums should feel more obliged to pay voluntary admission fees”, He also said. ‘encouraging visitors to set a value on museums and art galleries would work extremely well’. The Tories have traditionally held a cavalier attitude towards free entry to Museums, believing they should pay their own way without the support of public funds. It shows a distinct disregard for the growth in popularity of Art and culture over the last generation under Labour rule.
Leaked documents released by the BBC and Daily Telegraph,on Friday state that, Public bodies still under review (94 bodies) include the National Museums and Galleries in England which are publicly-funded by DCMS and receive rebates of VAT incurred in the course of their activities, in order them to enable free admission to the public. These are: The British Museum; The Imperial War Museum; The National Gallery; The National Maritime Museum; The National Museums & Galleries of Merseyside; The Natural History Museum; The Royal Armouries; The Science Museum; The National Museum of Photography, Film and Television; The National Railway Museum; The National Coal Mining Museum for England; The Tate Galleries; The Wallace Collection; The Greater Manchester Museum of Science and Industry; Sir John Soane’s Museum; The Museum of London; The Geffrye Museum; and The Horniman Museum. Other publicly-funded museums (The British Library, The National Army Museum, etc.) are separately referred to in this list, and museums in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are a devolved matter (although they also receive rebates of VAT).There is still time to make your views heard, by protesting these savage cuts, which will be officially released in early October.
Sign the petition: savethearts.org.uk
Here is a list of figures highlighting the most popular Museums and Galleries
Most visited British Museums 2009 figures
British Museum, London — 5,932,897 visitors (+ 9.5%)
Tate Modern, London — 4,862,581 (- 6%)
National Gallery, London — 4,382,614 (+ 6%)
Natural History Museum London — 3,698,500 (+ 2.7%)
Science Museum, London — 2,705, 677 (+ 1%)
Victoria and Albert Museum, London —- 2,065,300 (-15%)
National Maritime Museum, London —- 2,051,270 (+ 21%)
National Portrait Gallery, London —- 1,843,266 (+15%)