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Sunday, 1 April, 2001, 10:31 GMT 11:31 UK
Museums launch free entry
National Museum of Wales
The National Museum of Wales is a key attraction
Visitors to eight National Museum and Galleries of Wales sites will be able to do so free from Sunday.

The policy has been introduced by the Welsh Assembly, ahead of museums in England.

The announcement was heralded in Chancellor Gordon Brown's Budget and comes into force in December.

Welsh Culture Minister Jenny Randerson unveiled the move in Wales last month.

She said that widening access to museums would enable everyone to enjoy Wales's "rich heritage of arts, science, and social and industrial history".

But there has been opposition from the tourism industry's private sector, who claim the move could contribute to their downfall.

Dan yr Ogof caves in the Swansea Valley
Managers at Dan yr Ogof oppose the scheme
Managers of the showpiece Dan yr Ogof Caves in the Swansea Valley said the new scheme will be the "nail in the coffin" for many private operators.

They said some attractions - already reeling from the blow of foot-and-mouth - would not be able to compete.

As well as the main national museum in Cardiff, the free visitor sites include the Big Pit mining museum at Blaenavon in south east Wales and the Welsh Slate Museum at Llanberis in north Wales.

Also open to the pubic for free from 1 April are the flagship Museum of Welsh Life at St Fagans, near Cardiff, the Roman museum at Caerleon and the Turner House Galley in Penarth.

The national museum is marking the beginning of the free entry era by the symbolic release of balloons at its main site in Cathays Park, Cardiff.

A Cardiff family who have never visited the museum together will take part in the launch.

NMGW director Anna Southall said it was a great day for Wales.

"Thanks to the National Assembly's support, our national museums will be free for several months before full free admission will be introduced in England."

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See also:

30 Mar 01 | Scotland
Museums scrap entrance charges
31 Jan 01 | Wales
Maritime museum 'put on hold'
17 Jan 01 | Wales
Police station 'goes quietly'
07 Mar 01 | Budget 2001
Museums and galleries will be free
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