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Friday, 9 August, 2002, 11:57 GMT 12:57 UK
Free museums going strong
Canova's Three Graces
Canova's Three Graces are a major draw at the V&A
Attendance at museums and galleries in England with free entry has risen by 62% since entrance fees were scrapped on 1 December 2001.

An extra 2.7 million people have been to a museum in the first seven months of the scheme, the government announced on Friday.

Attendance changes
V&A: Up 157%
Science Museum: Up 82%
Natural History Museum: Up 72%
Royal Armouries, Portsmouth: Up 69%
National Museums and Galleries on Merseyside: Up 67%
December 2001 - June 2002
The Victoria and Albert Museum in central London has seen the highest rise in visitor numbers with a 157% increase.

The Science Museum has had 82% more visitors.

"The press and marketing campaign has clearly been successful and reached new audiences," said a Science Museum spokesperson.

In other parts of the country, the National Museums and Galleries on Merseyside has seen a rise of 67%, and the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester a rise of 66%.

Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell said: "Now charges have been lifted for the great permanent collections, people of all ages are flooding through the doors to see them.

Tessa Jowell
Jowell: In the midst of funding round
"We are currently working out how much cash we can give to the national and regional museums.

"However, one thing is clear, free entry will be protected."

The reaction amongst other successful museums, where morale is on a high, has bordered on the triumphant.

The director of the V&A, Mark Jones, said: "These figures show that free admission makes a huge difference and has opened up the Museum again to many more people."

The director of Manchester's Museum of Science and Industry, Dr Patrick Greene, said free entry had totally changed the atmosphere in his museum.

Total attendance
Natural History Museum - 1,632,175
Science Museum - 1,356,398
V&A - 1,257,824
National Museums and Galleries on Merseyside - 644,580
National Maritime Museum - 615,856
National Railway Museum - 339,968
Imperial War Museum - 339,873
Museum of Science and Industry - 298,573
December 2001 - June 2002
"It is tremendous, not only have the numbers in general doubled since going free in December but we are getting a great response from people here for the Commonwealth games which makes it a double boost," he said.

"You just have to go outside to the museum and it is buzzing, really full for an August."

But the overall figure of 62% across all of the newly-free museums is slightly down on the five-month figure of 75%, announced at the start of May, Museums and Galleries Month.

Free entry to museums was a policy initiative promised by the Labour government when it came to power in 1997.

But it took several years to come to fruition with museums concerned about losing out financially, although they were keen to open their doors free to the public.

Chancellor Gordon Brown eased these concerns by introducing tax changes in the 2001 budget.

Many museums and galleries still charge entrance fees for their exhibitions.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Torin Douglas
"Many regional museums are struggling"
See also:

01 May 02 | Entertainment
01 Dec 01 | Entertainment
30 Nov 01 | Entertainment
08 Nov 01 | Entertainment
01 May 01 | Entertainment
07 Mar 01 | Budget 2001
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