July 29, 2009

The deluded notion of free museums?

Posted at 1:08 pm in British Museum

The British Museum regularly highlights the fact that their exhibits can be viewed free of charge, but rarely enters into any serious discussion of the actual merits of this.

It appears that many people are not in complete agreement over benefits of free entry.

Daily Telegraph

There is no such thing as a free exhibition about the Zutons
Letters, July 28: The deluded notion of free museums
Published: 12:01AM BST 28 Jul 2009

SIR – If Michael Cattell (Letter, July 27) believes that entry to museums is free, he is sadly deluded.

Every penny given to museums is taken from individuals or employers through taxation.

At a time when companies are making people redundant, there is a major question mark over the morality of increasing the pressures on businesses and families so that people in Liverpool can have concerts and exhibitions on the music of the Zutons.

If people enjoy these exhibitions, then let those who want them and who live close enough to visit them, pay for them out of their own pockets.

Ian Wallace
Whitley Bay, Northumberland

SIR – Having spent Saturday afternoon at the British Museum, I am concerned that museums may become a victim of their own success. The popular rooms were crowded, with bottlenecks created by groups stopping to take photographs.

The staffing levels do not appear to be sufficient either to keep all the rooms open (and some real treasures were inaccessible as a result) or to ensure that visitors did not inadvertently cause wear and tear that could be irreversible.

It is right that the national collections should be freely accessible, but the funding levels need to be sufficient to cope with the demand.

Angela Sage
London SW20

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  1. Daniel said,

    09.30.09 at 6:10 am

    Oh dear. The term clutching at straws comes to mind regarding your attempts to justify your stance against free musuems. The fact that if the marbles were returned to a museum closer to the acropolis, visitors would have to pay for the priveledge is a major trump card regarding staying in london. I guess your against any public funding of the arts then.

  2. Matthew said,

    09.30.09 at 12:37 pm

    It is not a major trump card. If others believed that free admission was the most over-ridingly important thing then they would also have provided it. The reality is that on balance most countries have decided that it is not as important as the British Museum claims.

    It could be argued (& I don’t necessarily subscribe to the view) that as free admission to museums is being paid for by taxes, it is merely a way for those who don’t visit museums (who on average are likely to be less well off / live away from London), subsidising the visits of those who do.

    If the British Museum believes it is such a valid pint then they should enter into serious discussion of the advantages / disadvantages of this approach rather than just repeating the one point with no clear justification behind it.

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