The Guardian‘s Beef With Free Museum Admission Part 3

Patrons waiting in line at The Met (which recently upped its suggested donation to $25). Via the NYT

Over the past few days, we’ve examined the cases of two writers in The Guardian who support charging admission at national UK museums (they are currently free).

Tristram Hunt thinks its better to charge admission than lose outreach programs. Jonathan Jones think its better to charge admission than sell off work or risk it getting defaced because of inadequate security.

So what’s the message here? Would I go to more museums in NYC if they were free? HELL YES. But I go even when they aren’t. I don’t feel bad supporting an arts institution when it would cost the same amount to see some terrible movie in theaters. I’m swayed by Hunt’s point– I’d rather pay admission knowing that my money helped to fund education and outreach. And I suspect that many citizens of the United Kingdom would agree with me.

However, given that these national museums are already free, I also think it would be a step back to charge $25 for access. Blerg. In the Post-materialist, Socialist Utopia of my dreams, we would all live in museums. For free.

But until then, I suppose that the answer is some combination of increased government support supplemented by appropriate deaccessioning and a controlled use of suggested admission fees. Perhaps event fees? We’re looking for a “best of all possible worlds” scenario here.

Let me know if you have any ideas and I’ll pass them along to David Cameron the next time we’re out for tea.

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One Comment on “The Guardian‘s Beef With Free Museum Admission Part 3”

  1. nycdouvetw says:

    I oppose charging admission to art museums. That being said, as someone who working in conservation, I know that the costs of maintaining these vast collections (like an iceberg, the overwhelming body of the collection is not on view and kept in climate controlled storage vaults!) is staggering: maintaining climate control, security, insurances (for the most valuable works in the world, likely not cheap), publications, staffing, and of course conservation of these works.

    Today conserving works involves so many specialists, and just the examination of works through various types of spectroscopy, ie, FTIR, GC, GCMS, pyrole-GCMS, X Ray, and many others, not to mention the OSHA mandated chemical safety hooding, ventilation, photo-documentation laboratories is not cheap. I could go on. And thats NOT even treating them. There are so many objects that are literally sitting in a line waiting to be conserved, hoping for a show that might come up that would warrant their rescue. I have heard from museum conservation professionals that the average cost per visitor to a museum is around $40 at high traffic museums in the city.

    Those facts being offered, I still think museums should be free. You can see why I don’t get into debating politics, eh?


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