Arriving armed with the latest collection of UK statistics on museums and galleries that I could find, the conference produced some surprises.
Like the UK, in many countries funding environment for culture since 2008 has been difficult with tales of reduced opening hours and slimmed down events and exhibitions. The assumption was that this would have had a knock-on effect on the number of visits to museums and that this would have meant further bad news for the sector.
through publicly available data on the number of visits to museums in England
(sorry Scotland, Wales &Northern Ireland) I identified 288 sites where data
was available from 2008-2012.
found that in 2008 these sites received 52.4m visits and in 2012 ... 59.4m
visits! An increase of 7m or 13% over the period. Thirteen may be unlucky
for some, but not, on the face of it, for England's museums. Delegates from
France also reported increases as did Belarus, Estonia, the Netherlands and
Poland. Only the Czech Republic reported a definite decrease and they had
somehow managed to offset this by a real terms increase in total income.
pondered. Was Europe becoming more cultured? Were Europeans flocking to
the comforting embrace of museums in these difficult times? A fire alert forced
an impromptu evacuation from the meeting. Undaunted, we reconvened around
Well, what we agreed on was that the picture is complex and national 'overview' data doesn't show this complexity. Perhaps increases in national visit numbers were being driven by a few large sites?
Further investigation into where the
growth in visit numbers was or wasn't occurring would show whether this was
happening across all or just part of the sector. On top of this, we also
recognised the need for social research to find out what was driving people's
decision about visiting or not.
we don't currently have answers, we do at least know more about what sort of
questions we need to be asking visitors to get them.
in 2002, EGMUS (to use its snappier acronym) aims to collect and compile
available statistical data on museums in Europe and promote the harmonisation
of museum statistics. At present 27 European countries, from within and outside
the European Union, are represented in the group. To find out more, visit their website here