Figures released by the department of culture,media and sport this week show that eight of the top ten UK visitor attractions are free sponsored national museums, with around 18 million annual visits to museums and galleries that used to charge an entrance fee.
Visits to former charging sponsored museums in London increased by 151 per cent between 2000-01 and 2010/11.
Visits to the National Maritime Museum were up 204 per cent, the Natural History Museum by 187 per cent and the V&A by 180 per cent.
In Manchester,visits to the Museum of Science and Industry were up by 122 per cent whilst in Liverpool,visits to the National Museums Liverpool were up by 269 per cent
Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport Jeremy Hunt said:
“We have the finest museums and galleries in the world. But unlike other major capital cities, they are free to visit in this country. The range of items on display is breath-taking, from world famous paintings to amazing discoveries from the natural world. All of this, free of charge, for anyone to visit as often as they like.
“Our free museums and galleries ensure that culture is for everyone, not just the lucky few. I am particularly proud that we have secured the future of free museums despite the current financial climate.”
Director of the Tate Sir Nicholas Serota said:
“Across the world, the success of free admission to National museums is regarded as a model in making available the treasures we all own to the widest possible audience. The government is to be congratulated on maintaining this principle at a time of constraint.”
According to VisitBritain, Britain's major museums and galleries earn the country £1 billion a year in revenue from overseas tourists. A recent report on Britain’s culture and heritage shows that museums and galleries are a key motivator for many international visitors to Britain, with free world-class national museums and art galleries a particular draw.