Come to Britain and enjoy free entry to our national museums while you can. Yesterday was the 10th anniversary of one of Labour’s better ideas in government – the dropping of museum charges in exchange for increased state funding.
In London this meant, in particular, the South Kensington museums – the Natural History (pictured), Science, and V & A - joined existing institutions such as the National Gallery, Tate, and British Museum in not charging.
It’s meant museum attendance has more than doubled across the UK in the last 10 years. A boon to our tourist industry, overseas visitors are attracted to these shores by the notion they will only be asked to make voluntary contributions when enjoying our major museums.
The worrying note in yesterday’s celebrations was the concern expressed that the economic climate is so severe funding restraints might require museums to introduce entry charges.
Special exhibitions are already prohibitively expensive; it would be a blow to the cultural life of the UK if our national museums were to start charging.
Our museums are in contrast to say, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Louvre in Paris, and the Vatican Museum in Rome all of which levy significant admission prices.
As culture secretary Jeremy Hunt said: “Our free museums and galleries ensure that culture is for everyone.” Long may it remain so.