This week, UK national museums will celebrate 10 years since free entry was introduced on 1 December 2001. Thanks to the support of the Welsh Government, Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales introduced the policy eight months earlier – a pioneering move that nearly doubled visitor figures to national museums in Wales.
Back in 2001-02, a specific ‘free for all’ marketing and press campaign resulted in figures increasing 88% – from 764,599 to 1,430,428 – within 12 months.
The momentum has continued and in fact accelerated. 1,656,340 visits were made to Wales’ seven national museums in 2010 – 11. By 1 April 2011, nearly 15 million visits had been made over the decade of free entry.
Huw Lewis, Minister for Housing, Regeneration and Heritage said:
“This is a ‘made in Wales’ success story for Devolution, the Welsh Government and Amgueddfa Cymru. The free entry policy strikes the right balance between meeting the needs of existing loyal visitors and attracting newer, harder to reach audiences as well as addressing barriers to access such as poverty and social exclusion.
“It has been key to both increasing volume and also appealing to a broad range of people from our communities. Before free entry, less than 250,000 visitors were from less affluent groups but over the 10 years of the policy, the figure has doubled.”
The opening of the new National Museum of Art at National Museum Cardiff in July 2011, proved to be a further success with new audiences. Visitors to the Museum over the summer period (April – September 2011) reached 213,077 compared with 188,456 the previous year, thanks to the new development and the re-opening of the Natural History galleries.
Also in 2011, two of Amgueddfa Cymru’s other Museums experienced their best summer ever. The National Slate Museum in Llanberis welcomed 111,891 people over the six months (an increase of 9.7% compared with the same period last year) and 19,383 visited the National Wool Museum (16.8% more).
David Anderson, Director General, Amgueddfa Cymru added:
“Thanks to the vision and continued financial support of the Welsh Government, I’m delighted that Wales was the first country in the UK to remove a major barrier so that people could and still can enjoy their heritage and culture. Free entry is only one of the ways that Amgueddfa Cymru contributes to the social and economic life of Wales. We also play a leading role in culture and heritage provision, education, skills and tourism.
“Amgueddfa Cymru is the biggest provider of formal learning outside the classroom in Wales, bringing learning alive for over 230,000 pupils and students each year. We inspire people of all ages and communities, whatever their background, through our collections, a variety of exhibitions and events. Our work is also seen outside the museum buildings, as we work in partnership with groups all over Wales and beyond on a range of community projects.”