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Treasurehouse and Powerhouse: the Natural History Museum reveals its value to the nation

The Natural History Museum today published its Treasurehouse and Powerhouse report - the first publication of its kind to be commissioned by the Museum, compiled by Tony Travers of LSE and Stephen Glaister of Imperial College.

Treasurehouse and Powerhouse provides a fresh, new way of understanding the Natural History Museum. It highlights the important contribution made by the Museum by stating the significant, sometimes surprising and wide-ranging impact it has in the local, national and international community. The report also warns that the threat of diminishing resources from the government will put continuation of the Museum's world-class activities at risk.

'For the first time we have a clear picture of how the Natural History Museum contributes to the nation, scientifically, culturally and economically,' said Sir Neil Chalmers, director of the Natural History Museum. 'Treasurehouse and Powerhouse conveys the challenges we face as we balance our varied role as a leading tourist attraction, a research institution with over 300 scientists, as guardians of more than 70 million natural history specimens, as custodians of one of London's iconic historic buildings and in delivering a learning, outreach and access agenda on behalf of the government.'

The key findings of Treasurehouse and Powerhouse show the Natural History Museum:

  • Enjoys more than three million visitors each year. This is greater than the population of London at the time the Museum was built, in 1881.
  • Had a turnover of £52m in 2002/3. This is similar to a Premiership football team's annual turnover and more than that of the Greater London Authority. This sum is significant as it indicates a cascade of resources into the local, regional and national economies.
  • Generates £4 to the economy for every £1 provided by its annual government grant, which currently stands at £38m.
  • Adds £190m to the economy every year. This reflects the full impact of the Natural History Museum and the expenditure it generates from visitors.
  • Extends its economic impact outside London due to the wide geographic spread of its employees. Many staff live outside London in areas such as Brighton, Guildford, Luton and Milton Keynes, which mean Museum employment contributes directly into the local economies of many neighbourhoods beyond London.
  • Is the UK's fifth most popular free visitor attraction. 13.5 per cent of all international tourists in London decide to visit the Natural History Museum.
  • Produces scientific research equal to that produced by 5- and 5*- rated earth and life science departments in leading UK universities such as Cambridge University, Imperial College London and University College London.
  • Welcomes 125,000 school children each year, an equivalent of 6,250 individual classes throughout the year or 325 pupils every day of the school year, equivalent to a medium-sized primary school.
  • Clearly does an excellent job of attracting not just traditional museum-goers, but also a large number of children and other new audiences.
  • Is the most efficient natural history museum amongst its international peers - those being the world's top three natural history museums in Paris, New York and Washington. The Natural History Museum operates with fewer staff and a lower turnover but accommodates a similar number of visitors.

Commenting on the report's findings, Tony Travers said: 'There is no doubt that the Natural History Museum has been a great success in recent years. It has modernised its image and welcomed large numbers of new visitors while maintaining its traditional roles and responsibilities. As a classic museum, an academic institution, a mass tourism destination and a large public space, it is one of the most complex organisations that we have assessed. The Museum accepts and enjoys its extraordinary position - but this does not make the maintenance of this position any less challenging. It enjoys great affection from leaders, staff and the public and yet its value to the country appears often to be overlooked. As outsiders looking in at the Natural History Museum, it is clear from our study that the present funding regime cannot fully support the wide range of cultural, curatorial and tourist needs of such a modern institution.'


Treasurehouse and Powerhouse can be requested by calling the Natural History Museum's Press Office on 020 7942 5654.

Tony Travers| is director of the Greater London Group, which carries out research into subjects relating to the government and economy of cities. His latest book is The Politics of London: governing an ungovernable city (Palgrave Macmillan, 2004).


Britain's top 10 free visitor attractions are Blackpool Pleasure Beach (6.2m), Tate Modern (4.6m), British Museum (4.6m), National Gallery (4.1m), Natural History Museum (3m), Victoria & Albert Museum (2.7m), Science Museum (2.6m), Pleasureland, Southport (2m), National Portrait Gallery (1.5m), Tate Britain (1.2m). Source: Survey of visits to visitor attractions, UK Tourism Facts, 2002.

2 February 2004