Value Added

The BBC reports that museums across the UK experienced a boost to their visitor numbers over the summer, which they put down to the poor economy forcing people to stay close to home for their leisure time. Lest we get too excited about the 10% increase across 225 institutions (which include major national museums, which are free), the article reminds us that operating costs have increased by up to 30%. So what does this say about the public's attitude towards museums? I think it clearly says that more people will take advantage of museums only if they are free or easily accessible, and only if there is nothing else to do. Meanwhile, these same museums have to bend over backwards to make themselves exciting and competitive with all the other options for British leisure time. Presumably, this means changing exhibitions more often so that repeat visitors and new audiences are ensured. The economics of this just doesn't work, though, because the investment is so much greater than the return; I return once again to my favourite rhetorical question about non-profit industries - if we're not in it for the money, what are we in it for? And how do you measure that value?


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