The Times of London stirs the museum pot with Boris Johnson’s musings on whether creating stronger social pressure to contribute to museums in order to gain entry would be a good thing for the country’s arts institutions. The key question, which ends the quote below, is whether free admission draws in a broader audience or merely increases the frequency with which the same audience visits museums (hardly a bad thing, eh?) while depriving the institution of much needed income:
Mr Johnson’s spokesman later admitted that free admission was a “huge draw” for London, but he said: “Having visited the Met last week, he [the Mayor] was impressed by how they maximise voluntary contributions and believes there are lessons to be learnt from America about increasing philanthropic giving.” […]
When entrance fees to national museums were scrapped here in 2001, there was a 70 per cent increase in visitor numbers in the first year. Political parties have since been reluctant to suggest change, despite concerns about cost. Hugo Swire, the former Shadow Culture Secretary, was dismissed in 2007 for suggesting that “museums and galleries should have the right to charge if they wish”.
Some in the arts community argue, however, that the scheme has done little to increase the breadth of visitors and has plunged museums into deficit.
Boris Johnson: Museum Visitors Should Pay to Get In (Times of London)