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Last Updated: Monday, 15 March, 2004, 15:06 GMT
Do museums deserve more public money?
A visitor studies Andy Warhol's Marilyn Diptych painting at the Tate Modern in central London
Two thousand regional and national museums are joining forces to demand more Government money.

The group wants an extra 115million a year to keep current services running, buy new objects, and improve collaboration between national and regional galleries.

A Manifesto for Museums, launched on Tuesday, contained a warning that large London attractions may not be able to keep going at their present levels.

ASK THE EXPERT
Leicester's Head of Museums answered your questions

They say their popularity has been growing but that public investment has failed to keep pace.

Do museums deserve more public money? What improvements would you like to see? Would you be willing to pay for access to museums?


This debate is now closed. Read your comments below.

So much for the government's museum policies regarding access and education
Ian Fraser, Harrogate, UK
I work for a large local authority museum and art gallery service, in conservation. I can assure readers that the gap between what is needed to run a half decent service, and what is actually available is absolutely colossal. Backlogs in basics like building maintenance, collection care initiatives, conservation treatments mean that a finite and culturally valuable resource, our intellectual capital, is facing very real threats of change and decay that is avoidable with some investment. The decay is not sudden or catastrophic, just a steady drip, drip, until one day we find ourselves impoverished as our heritage has diminished. So much for the government's museum policies regarding access and education.
Ian Fraser, Harrogate, UK

Yes! Having seen for myself how integral museums and other cultural spaces are to every day life here in Switzerland, it's about time the UK invested more heavily in its rich cultural networks. It would also be good to see the money being spent on the museums outside the proximity of the big cities. Regional museums should play an important role in the community in order to celebrate the regional identities of our island.
Laura Bruce, Geneva, Switzerland

Museums are critical repositories of our heritage and should thus be properly funded. But it's also important we don't live in the past. Heritage is continually renewed through the performing and visual arts and we need to ensure that each sector is getting adequate resources.
Paul, Plymouth

Yes, museums deserve more public money, but in my opinion a scheme whereby free or cheap travel to London was available would be excellent; then everyone could get to London to enjoy and learn from our museums, not just the privileged few.
Lena-Bryony, Swansea, UK

I wonder how consistent all your respondents are being? As most museums are run by local authorities if you give them more money then council tax has to go up by more than "inflation" so I trust none of the 'keep the council tax down' campaigners have said 'yes' to this proposition!
Mike, Winchester

Museums are important but why not give them charity status? That way companies can make donations and reclaim the tax. Also people are willing to pay to visit Madam Tussauds etc... why not museums.
Barry, England

Many tourists visit the UK because of our wealth of resources
Helena, London, UK
Our exceptional heritage and its documentation should be paid from public funds. Many tourists visit the UK because of our wealth of resources. If museums are cut back, tourism would likewise scale down, and so would the resulting revenue.
Helena, London, UK

Let the public vote on which museums should get money.
Jessima, UK

The last Conservative government introduced admission charges for museums and the numbers of visitors fell. Paying for access is a non-starter. The government has to continue to support museums with appropriate subsidies. A country which cannot support, sustain and celebrate its heritage has nothing to build on for its future.
Arthur, UK

Museums are a very important part of our culture, there's no doubt but I think I'd be with many people when I ask whether there are more important areas to spend the money.
Adrian, England

If we do not keep our museums well-funded, then we lose our past, and we need our past for the future.
W, England

Of course it is important to fund our museums properly. They are very important to the history of our country or the world and past events and they are also important for scientific or artistic education. We should not begrudge paying for them. There should be an entrance fee too as so the people who go in and see them are supporting them too. But the cost should not be too high as we should be encouraging UK nationals and foreigners to see our heritage etc.
Nina, UK

I have visited museums in countries all over the world and I have paid to get into most of them and never, ever grudged a single penny because without that money they could not afford to maintain the national treasures that they do. People forget that once an item is bought, that is not the end of the cost. These items need to be cared for and properly displayed, some pieces require state of the art humidity and light control or they will crumble and be lost and that costs a lot.
Richard Scott, Windsor, UK

How can the government claim shortage of funds when it has 100,000,000 to spend on the unnecessary reform of the Court of Appeal system and removing the Lord Chancellor's position? It has money to burn when it comes to resolving disputes between Cabinet ministers. That just shows the appalling lack of regard for Britain's culture and heritage typical of New Labour in particular, and governments in general.
Bob Pinder, Lincolnshire, England

A lack of support for our museums will be yet another nail in the coffin of education in this country
James Miller, Harlow, UK
This government seems intent on devaluing education by imposing charges on it, thereby deterring people from accessing it. A lack of support for our museums will be yet another nail in the coffin of education in this country. Dig deep Mr Brown, it may get you to No10 yet!
James Miller, Harlow, UK

Our history and heritage is so fundamentally important to our understanding of the world that I would be more than happy for some of my taxes to go towards subsidising museums and heritage sites. A few less fancy lunches for brainless politicians and a bit more history...that's the ticket!
Keith, Edinburgh, UK

Got a simple idea, charge foreign tourists leave it free for UK citizens. That way everyone pays for the museum, one group through ticket charges, and the others through taxation. It's done elsewhere, why not in the UK?
Jethro Patton, London, UK

Museums should receive funding proportional to the number of visitors they have. It would be a simple mechanism but ensure that those with no popular interest are simply not supported by the public purse.
Mike Hall, Chipping Norton

Of course we should help fund museums. The government manage to waste cash everywhere, so to be able to spend it for once on something that is a benefit to all should be congratulated.
Steve C, Poole

There seems to be some confusion expressed on this page about entrance fees. When most of the National Museums introduced them some years ago, any 'extra' income gained was effectively lost again as successive governments cut back on their core museum funding. In a good PR move, Labour encouraged the return of free entry, but without properly topping up any loss in revenue. Museums basically end up losing out whether they charge or not.
Stella, UK

Only if the museums and art galleries of the nation display their wares throughout the country. Not all of us can afford to spend a couple of hundred pounds for a round trip to London to see our shared heritage and examples of world culture. Either that or how about giving every northerner a free trip to London once a year so we can see what our taxes are paying for.
Joseph Wilkinson, Whitehaven, Cumbria

Museums do need extra funding to continue their good work. Whether all of this should be funded through the tax system is debatable. What about some sort of subscription system, similar to English Heritage and the National Trust? Those who subscribe get in free, those who don't pay a small charge.
Duncan P, Hampshire

I'm not sure an already stretched government will be able to accommodate the demands
Pete
As an archaeologist, I spend a lot of my time in 'historic' museums dealing with artefacts that need attention to help preserve them longer, and there just aren't enough resources. Museums do need more money, but I'm not sure an already stretched government will be able to accommodate the demands.
Pete

The negative comments here show what a lot of sad philistines Britain harbours. Without our history, we would be absolutely nothing. And without libraries, which hold information, and archives and museums, which provide the raw material for research and expansion of knowledge, how exactly would you educate anybody? The philistines aren't bright enough to answer that, obviously!
James, Coventry, England

We need to save our heritage. As a member of English Heritage and National Trust I can see how valuable our past is. It is because of our history the UK has thousands of visitors from other countries who spend a great deal of money here. I would be willing to pay to get into a museum to help preserve our countries heritage.
Julie Laver, Durham, England

Entry fees are the way to go! If you like the museums then choose to pay and support them. 1 or 2 wouldn't hurt and it would go a long way. OR people could give donations in exchange for a newsletter or whatever! Foreign tourists could be made to pay more. The question is... how would you easily prove someone is a tourist!
Babs, Swindon, UK

It is vital that the smaller collections also receive a decent support
Richard Ivers, Stirling, Scotland
All museums should be rated for need. The larger national museums have opportunities for funding sources that the smaller museums have little chance of receiving. To maintain a good range of museum attractions it is vital that the smaller collections also receive a decent support.
Richard Ivers, Stirling, Scotland

It is a very egalitarian idea that making museums 'free' will provide art for the masses. Are there any figures to back this up? Do working class families in north London say have the time to visit Museums let alone have any interest in the likes of Damien Hirst's revolting exhibits. More likely museums are a cheap destination for tourists, bored school kids and luvvies and they should pay an entry fee as they would at Madam Tussauds and Alton Towers.
Mark, Glasgow, UK

I work in a small independent museum just outside Manchester and face a massive problem because of the major museum in the area which is able to offer free entry. We do a huge amount of work with the local community for which do not receive any funding directly from the Government. It is unlikely that we will ever be able to offer free entry and we clearly loose a large percentage of visitors as the free museums are far more attractive. Small local museums must not be overlooked when the nationals use their power in the political arena to raise their profile.
Kate , Bollington, Cheshire

I'd be happy to see museums receive more money, as long as this is also extended to other arts endeavours
Nicola, Bristol, UK
I'd be happy to see museums receive more money, as long as this is also extended to other arts endeavours such as professional choirs and orchestras, instrumental lessons in schools, sponsorships for young writers/artists/composers and grants for theatres and opera companies.
Nicola, Bristol, UK

It's no surprise that Britain's musea are good and require a lot of money. As the largest former colonial power, Britain has pillaged more valuable objects and resources than any other nation. Now, it is Britain's moral responsibility to either take proper care of its loot, or return it.
JK, Edinburgh, UK

As with the BBC, British museums are something to be proud of. This country should invest much more money in preserving our much treasured culture.
Justin, Bristol

My 14yr old son recently went, with his school to the National Portrait Gallery and had a most wonderful and educational day. We only had to pay for the transport and some families found that hard to manage. I am sure if they had to pay an entrance fee as well many children would not have been able to experience this event
Liz, Reading UK

Is the country's heritage not worth just a few pence a week?
John C, Bath, England
Why so many complaints about 'taxpayers' money'? Has this country really become so self-obsessed? Is the country's heritage not worth just a few pence a week? These represent fantastic value for money, and will be a national treasure for future generations.
John C, Bath, England

I regularly go up to London to visit museums, but only since they became free to enter. It is a joy to be able to go in and soak up some culture without breaking the bank. I agree with the idea that they should be free for British residents but charged for tourists.
Humaira, Kent, UK

Yes. Museums are vital to public understanding and education in science, art, engineering, medicine, history and many other fields. Places like these can inspire people to work in any of these fields, and they are also vital for the purposes of research. The UK has some of the finest collections in the world, but we need to be able to maintain and expand on what we have in order to keep the research and reputations of these institutions at the forefront of world opinion.
Michael, Cambridge, UK

Has any organisation deriving its funds from the public purse ever asked for less money? Those who value museums, and can afford to do so, should make voluntary, tax-free donations. That's how these institutions got off the ground in the first place. It's just not right to expect poor taxpayers (and everyone pays VAT at least) to subsidise the collection of things that may hold no interest to them, and our society would be stronger if institutions like museums had the independence that a diversity of funding would give them.
Neil, Surrey, England

The area where we still excel in the world is through our wonderful galleries and museums
Amanda Hallay, France/UK

Yes, yes, yes! Britain has little to be proud of these days, but the area where we still excel in the world is through our wonderful galleries and museums. As a former Art Historian, I have visited museums and galleries throughout the world, and Britain is superior to all, both in terms of collections and curation. Add to that the fact that British national galleries are free, then I think it would be lunacy for the government to reject the measly 115 million the Manifesto for Museums suggested. And yes - let's keep them free.

Whilst I would personally pay an entrance fee to The National Gallery or the Tate Britain, there is a real sense of pride when visiting London with French or American friends and informing them that we don't have to 'pay to enter' because Britain believes that that Art and Culture belong to the people.
Amanda Hallay, Paris, France

Yes they deserve more money. Free entry has already shown they are a resounding success with the public. Museums are giant encyclopaedias you can walk through, without them how would we be able to see and touch the past and learn for the future?
Gill, Newcastle upon Tyne

Why not charge for entry like they do in France? Why should the rest of the country pay for museums mostly based in London?
Paul Weaver, London, UK

While museums are ready to pay for rubbish such as the modern art short-listed for the Turner Prize, they should not be given a penny of public money but should be funded by an entrance fee. Once hospitals and schools are sorted out, then museums may ask for their share of public money to waste away.
Mary J, London UK

Providing it is well spent it should be a good thing. Benefiting society through educating and through tourism.
Harry, UK

When museums charged, I used to enjoy going, despite the admission fee. Now they are free, they're always mobbed with groups of schoolchildren running amok, so I've stopped going. Even if they remain free, I think that overseas visitors should pay.
Wyn, London, UK

Museums should get more money as they are a massive tourist attraction
Steve, Switzerland/UK
The museums in the UK are fantastic with a range of exhibits to suit all. Museums should get more money as they are a massive tourist attraction. However, I think they should follow the Greek system. This is where Greek natives/residents get in for free and all overseas visitors pay a charge. This would not disrupt tourism if the charges were sensible and may also encourage more Brits to visit.
Steve, Switzerland/UK

Hold on - didn't these museums recently abolish entry fees? If they aren't getting enough money maybe entry fees should be re-introduced so that the people that actually visit museums pay for them, and not the long suffering British taxpayer.
Richard, UK

Absolutely. Most of our heritage has disappeared because of agribusiness and globalisation. It is only the museums that maintain the tenuous link between what we are and where we come from. If we can afford to spend billions on the Olympics white elephant then we can surely afford the 115 million requested for the museums and an awful lot more. As far as I am concerned I would rather see the money that is going to be spent on finding out which athlete can run the fastest be spent on museums.
Andy, Salisbury, UK




SEE ALSO:
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Portillo's pleas for museum cash
02 Mar 04  |  Entertainment
Minister seeks more arts access
16 Oct 03  |  Entertainment
Museums handed 2m cash boost
21 Jul 03  |  Entertainment


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