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Last Updated: Tuesday, 28 December, 2004, 11:38 GMT
Free museums show rise in visits
Victoria and Albert Museum
Visits to the V&A in London rose by more than 100%
Visits to England's national museums and galleries have risen by 75% in the three years since they abolished admission charges, new figures show.

The government's figures showed more than 13m visits were recorded in 2004, up from 7m in the year before entry charges were scrapped.

But in the last 12 months the number is up by only 250,000, suggesting the rapid growth in visits is dropping off.

Visits to museums that have always been free had risen by 9% over the period.

This gives the lie to the idea that ordinary people have no appetite for 'serious' culture
Tessa Jowell
Culture Secretary
Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell said: "Today's figures are incredible. We believe that our collections are among the best in the world, and that everyone should be able to visit, enjoy and learn from them, whatever their background.

"I am delighted that visit numbers continue to grow. This gives the lie to the idea that ordinary people have no appetite for 'serious' culture - sweep away the obstacles, and they come in their millions."


Entry fees were scrapped at 12 museums in December 2001.

The Royal Armouries in Leeds enjoyed the biggest increase, with a 147% rise in visitor numbers.

In London, the V&A design museum recorded the biggest rise, with a 113% jump in numbers.

A spokeswoman for the V&A said free entry had made visiting museums "more flexible".

"It has made the V&A more accessible. It means people with children can come in for shorter times, but come back again.

"The impact for free entry has continued to grow, which has also been helped by some wonderful exhibitions.

"The initial impact has been sustained and we think that it will continue."

The Natural History Museum had a 95% rise and the Science Museum 71%.

National Museums Liverpool recorded a 94% increase and visits to the National Railway Museum in York grew by 57%.

BBC arts correspondent Rebecca Jones said research carried out by the government advisory body, the Museums, Libraries and Archive Council suggests it is visits, not visitors that have risen.

"In other words it's the same people, visiting more often," she said.

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