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EDITIONS
Wednesday, 11 December, 2002, 18:58 GMT
Funding is 'crucial' for museums
V&A Museum's Bollywood exhibition
The V&A Museum recently had a Bollywood exhibition
Museums and galleries in the UK must receive "sufficient funding" if they are to maintain free admissions, according to a Parliamentary report.

It said the "crucial" funding would help avoid a repeat of the financial problems which led to some museums and galleries having to charge entrance fees, many of which were abolished in 2001.

Who gets DCMS funding?
British Museum
National Gallery
National Portrait Gallery
Tate group
Wallace Collection
Horniman Museum
Victoria and Albert Museum
National Maritime Museum
Museum of London

The report, by a House of Commons select committee Culture, Media and Sport, also recommended "financial flexibility" allowing "limited freedoms" to borrow cash for income-generating projects.

And while the government's policy of free admissions was praised, the report said that "since the government has called the tune, it must keep paying the piper".

It also recommended that the current process for allocating funds, which was described as "opaque" by museums, should be modernised "as far as is realistic".

Admission charges
April 1999: Charges for children dropped
April 2000: Charges for over-60s dropped
Dec 2001: Free admission for all
Cost to government: 26.2m by March 2002

"There has been a real terms decline in public funding over an extended period and now the beginnings of recovery," the report said.

The resources and display items of the UK's museums and galleries were praised, however, and described as "a treasure trove of artistic, cultural, historical and scientific artefacts and expertise".

It also noted that they "make substantial contributions to the welfare of the country as a whole", noting their educational value.

The UK has nearly 2,000 registered museums and galleries in the UK, with about 1,500 of them in England.

Tate Britain gallery in London
Tate Britain recently received 350,000 for improvements
The report said that a small "but very important" minority of those were funded by the DCMS, and that they were the main focus of the findings.

It also noted that several institutions, including the British Museum, the Tate group and the National Gallery and Portrait Gallery had always been free.

Earlier this year, the British Museum's outgoing head, Dr Robert Anderson, complained that museums that had previously charged before free admission was imposed were compensated by the government.

He said those that had always been free received no extra cash.

The museum's new head, Neil MacGregor, said that although it could operate "on any budget that it has - that is our job", it was unable to operate effectively "to the maximum public benefit".

Windfall

Both Mr MacGregor and Sir Neil Chalmers, head of the Natural History Museum, said the funding process was "opaque".

But Tessa Jowell, the DCMS Secretary of State, said she did not think their views were "fair", and defended the department's approach to funding, saying it was the result of a great deal of government negotiation.

Ten museums across England were recently given a boost by the government with a 2m windfall to help improve the way their collections are displayed.

They are part of a new five-year Museums and Galleries Improvement Fund.

The report also noted that although visitor numbers had been hit by the foot and mouth crisis, the events of 11 September and the poor performance of the US stock market, overall they had still increased.

It said there had been a rise in visitors of 62% in the first seven months of admission charges being dropped.

The British Museum and the Natural History Museum between them "welcomed over seven million visitors" it said, while Manchester's Museum of Science and Industry had a rise in casual visits of 102%.

See also:

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