For a long time the British Museum, in its assertions that more people see the Elgin Marbles there than would see them in Athens, have relied on out of date figures for the number of visitors to the museum.
A new government website makes available regularly updated figures, although with a free admission museum such as the British Museum, I don’t know how accurate this data is & moreover many of the people may be repeat visitors (if it is free for re-admission, then why not go out for lunch somewhere else – but does this mean that you are counted twice?).
Another flaw in the figures, is that they are giving data for the entire museum, whereas clearly in a vast non-linear museum such as the British Museum it is unlikely that any visitors visit every single gallery (as was determined by the previous polls of visitors linked to from this site.)
Department of Culture, Media & Sport  (press release)
5 October 2004
Culture Department To Publish Regular Monthly Figures For Visits To Its Museums And Galleries
From this month, the DCMS is to publish regular statistics for visits to the museums and galleries it sponsors. These will appear on our website at the beginning of every month.
Announcing the plan, Arts Minister Estelle Morris said:
“Visits to our national museums and galleries have soared since we scrapped admission charges. Better still, all the evidence suggests that this increase is being sustained.
“By publishing regular statistics of visitor numbers, all of us working in the sector will be better able to spot trends, and do even more to build on success so far.”
Notes to Editors
1. The information comprises total visits to DCMS sponsored museums and galleries and their branches. Figures will be updated during the first week of each month, with a one-month time lag in publishing figures, to allow for the collection and collation of the data.
2. Visits to museums and galleries are subject to many different influences including school holidays, popularity of specific temporary exhibitions, and even the weather. For example, the fluctuation in visit numbers between the spring months is very often explained by the timing of the Easter bank holiday, which varies from year to year.
Press Enquiries: 020 7211 6276\6272
Out of hours telephone pager no: 07699 751153
Public Enquiries: 020 7211 6200