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Museums are key to Britain's success as a creative economy

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'The UK's museums and galleries could, with greater capacity to expand and improve, allow this country to be a world leader in creativity and scholarship,' concluded LSE's Tony Travers in a report published today (Wednesday 13 December).

Museums and Galleries in Britain: economic, social and creative impacts, was jointly commissioned by the National Museum Directors' Conference (NMDC) and the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA).

Tony Travers|, director of LSE's Greater London Group, analysed a number of Britain's leading museums and galleries in terms of visitor numbers, economic impacts, civic functions, and contributions to the country's creativity and educational performance.

The report's positive findings include:

  • Britain's museums and galleries are among the very best in the world. There is no other country in the world with such a powerful museum and gallery grouping within such a relatively small space.
  • There are 1,848 museums in the UK.
  • The economic benefits of the UK's major museums and galleries are estimated to be £1.5 billion per annum taking into account turnover and visitor expenditure. Wider economic impacts would be still greater.
  • The annual turnover of Britain's major museums and galleries exceeds £900 million. Broadly £1 in every £1,000 in the UK economy can be directly related to the museum and gallery sector. The major museums and galleries spend over £650 million a year.
  • There are 3,000 volunteers and over 140,000 'friends' linked to museums in the study - a major contribution to civic engagement.
  • There are over 42 million visits each year to major museums and galleries. It is more than attendance at the Premiership League plus the whole of the rest of league football for 2004-05. It is 50 per cent more than the number of people who annually visit the West End and Broadway theatres combined.
  • 43 per cent of the population visited a museum or gallery at least once over the past last year.
  • Seven of the top ten visitor attractions in the UK are museums. Museums and galleries are a significant factor in attracting visitors to the UK but they need to develop if they are to continue to complete against institutions that are developing in other countries.
    The kinds of people visiting museums are changing. Regional museum visits by people from lower socio-economic groups and by black and minority ethnic groups increased by 15.2 per cent and 60 per cent respectively in 2002-04.

The report also warns that:

  • Up to a third of museums displays and facilities are in need of significant renovation.
  • The amount spent on museum acquisitions is very small - in some years less than £20 million.
  • Income has not been rising as fast as staff and other inflationary costs in the economy.
  • Additional income will be required to enable museums to continue to deliver and not to fall back compared with heavily funded international competitors.
  • Capital expenditure has dropped sharply since 2001-02 as a percentage of total expenditure. National Museums show a falling total of capital expenditure and an increased reliance on government support. Earlier sources such as lottery have declined and consequently capital grant-in-aid has increased as a share of the total.
  • The availability of resources for investment in museums and galleries appears to be unrelated to the needs of the sector. There has been little available for improvement of existing assets.

The report concludes that: 'Britain's museums and galleries...underpin the creativity upon which future high value added economic activity is likely to be based. The storehouses represented by these institutions will encourage people in this country to use their creativity and talent to develop new services, products and even manufactured goods.

The agglomeration of institutions, talent and audiences in Britain has parallels in only a few other countries. However...there is a risk the institutions will be taken for granted and not seen as the potential opportunity they represent.

The potential is virtually limitless. The only question is whether, collectively, there is a national desire to deliver, maintain and expand this particularly creative sector.'



Press cuttings

The Times
London museum at risk (29 Jan 07)
Article refers to a recent study by Tony Travers, Museums and Galleries in Britain: economic, social and creative impacts.

The Guardian
A museum is not an iPod
(20 Jan 07)
Ordinary Britons love their museums. According to a new study, led by London School of Economics academic Tony Travers, 42 million visits are made each year in the UK. Apparently this beats the number of people who watch Premiership and league football. 

Export bans save cultural treasures worth £8.3 million (19 Dec 06)
A new report for the claims that millions of pounds worth of items have remained in Britain during 2006 as a direct result of the temporary export bar scheme. The study, Museums and Galleries in Britain: economic, social and creative impacts, by Tony Travers of the London School of Economics, notes that the scheme helped keep 17 objects in Britain. 

eGov monitor
Gowers review of intellectual property is in sync with MLA's view on the preservation of and access to cultural heritage (18 Dec 06)
The recent report Museums and Galleries in Britain, by Tony Travers of LSE, reviewed the economic, social and creative impacts of museums and galleries in Britain and stressed that the role of museums and galleries in promoting and encouraging creativity should not be overlooked.

Freeelance UK
Government urged not to neglect museums (18 Dec 06)

The Independent
A tale of two worlds: the 'new' one powers on, the 'old' one chugs along
(17 Nov 06)
The new killer fact I learnt last week is that more people in Britain go to museums than to football matches. Forty three per cent of the UK population visited a museum in the previous year, whereas according to a Mori survey in 2005, only 41 per cent of the population confessed to being interested in football. These statistics come from a report by Professor Tony Travers of the London School of Economics.

UKTV History
Museums 'vital to UK economy' (15 Dec 06)
Museums in Britain contribute around £1.5 billion a year and are a vital part of the UK economy, a new report claims. The study by analyst Tony Travers, of the London School of Economics, reveals that more people visited Britain's museums and galleries last year than attended league football games, including Premiership fixtures.

The Guardian
Museums boost economy by £1.5bn a year, says report
(14 Dec 06)
Britain's museums are not only vital to the economy, but are also the glue that binds communities together, reflecting society and providing ways of understanding the world in which we live, according to a report published yesterday. They are also a key British export, 'just as much as the car industry or hedge funds', according to Tony Travers, of the London School of Economics, author of Museums and Galleries in Britain, which analyses their social and economic impact. 

BBC News Online
Museum attendance beats football (14 Dec 06)

BBC Radio Four, The Today Programme

The Independent
Museums prove a bigger draw than football attraction than football (14 Dec 06)

Evening Standard
Golden age for Britain's museums (14 Dec 06)

The Washington Times
Brits flocked to museums, galleries (14 Dec 06) 

13 December 2006