The Guardian‘s Beef With Free Museum Admission Part 1

Over the past few months, there have been no less than THREE posts in the UK’s The Guardian that call for National Museums to begin charging admission.

First thought: WHAT? BRITISH MUSEUMS DON’T CHARGE ADMISSION!?

Second thought (in the immortal words of Tina Fey):  I want to go to there.

But seriously, why do Guardian bloggers Jonathan Jones and Tristram Hunt want Britain to switch over to the “American model?”

Hunt’s article is on making museums available to those with the greatest need, even if it reduces overall visitation. Funding for educational and outreach programs trumps free access. He writes:

According to a study by Mori: “While the number of people coming through the door might have dramatically increased [since the advent of free museums], the profile of a typical ‘population’ of museum or gallery visitors has remained relatively stable and firmly biased in favour of the ‘traditional’ visitor groups.” Instead, working with schools, a proper outreach strategy and well-funded inclusion programmes did more to bring hard-to-reach audiences through their forbidding porticoes. Whether it was the National Gallery’s use of Raphael’s Madonna of the Pinks to engage single mothers or the Whitworth Gallery’s proactive work in Moss Side, hard graft by curators in their communities shifted a gallery’s audience and reputation. And that is exactly what is under threat. The savage assault on the English Heritage budget, for example, has forced it to close its access department which had successfully opened up history and heritage for thousands of inner-city children.

It is an interesting point. Who are museums serving? The privileged middle-class who can afford to pay admission fees anyway or those who might not otherwise have access and find affinity

Mull it over and stay tuned for Parts 2 and 3.

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