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Tuesday, 24 April, 2001, 06:38 GMT 07:38 UK
Free entry draws visitors to museums
St Fagan's Castle at The Museum of Welsh Life
Crowds have visited the Museum of Welsh Life since charges were abolished
Free entry has brought a huge increase in the number of people visiting Wales's national museums, according to new figures.

So far this month, 100,000 people have visited the National Museums and Galleries of Wales, whose attractions include the Museum of Welsh Life at St Fagans near Cardiff, the Llanberis Slate Museum in north Wales, and Big Pit at Blaenavon.

The House of the Future at St Fagan's
New attraction : The House of the Future
Visitor numbers are up 260% at the Llanberis slate museum alone.

Last month, the Welsh Assembly scrapped entry fees for the museums, in line with Westminster thinking on making culture and heritage more accessible.

The assembly is one step ahead of England, however, where some venues are keeping admission charges.

The move followed an earlier gesture which abolished entry charges in Wales for under-19s and pensioners.

Delighted

Free entry across the board has come as welcome news for the NMGW, forced to close six sites last month because of the foot-and-mouth outbreak.

Museum managers said they were delighted with the news.

On Tuesday, assembly Culture and Sport Minister Jenny Randerson will visit the Museum of Welsh Life to officially open the latest attraction.

jenny randerson am
Jenny Randerson's policy has drawn more visitors
The House of the Future has been designed with efficiency and sustainability in mind.

It uses sheep's wool for insulation and "green" electricity generated from wind and water sources.

The project, which was completed in December has been packed with visitors since free entry was introduced.

Robin Gwyn of the National Museum said the increased numbers vindicated the assembly's decision to press ahead with free entry before England, where there would be charges at some venues for another six months.

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See also:

01 Apr 01 | Wales
Museums launch free entry
24 Jan 01 | Entertainment
'Free entry' to museums
03 Apr 01 | Health
Free prescriptions for under-25s
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