In celebration of 10 years of free entry to British museums, the Guardian invited Chris Smith, who was responsible for pushing for and end to charging for entry, to introduce a curators and museum-goers who give their favorite pieces from various museums in an article and photo series. Reading the article got me thinking about about admission charges to museums, and I have to say, I am a bit jealous. To be fair, entry to the Smithsonian museums is free, but I recently visited the Metropolitan in NY, and between parking (I know, I was crazy to drive in the city, let alone park) and admission I spent about $70 for my visit to the museum. Worth every penny, no doubt, but should the great museums limit entry to those who have the disposable income to pay the entry fee?
We are unlikely to see free admission any time soon for the reasons laid out in this article on the BBC:
In New York it now costs $25 to get into either MoMA (the Museum of Modern Art) or the huge Metropolitan Museum.
This provides serious income: The Met attracted a total of some 5.7m visitors in 2010/11 (although not all were fee-paying). That’s 650,000 more than Tate Modern in London – proof, say some, that people aren’t discouraged by charges if the destination is good enough.
And MoMA says raising its entrance fee this summer by $5 had no effect on visitor numbers.
The idea of making admissions free isn’t really a live issue in the States.
Major institutions focus on outreach projects which encourage the engagement of parts of society otherwise unlikely to visit.
Some see this as a better way of challenging the perceived exclusivity of major museums and art galleries.
(Museum entry fees: How the UK compares | By Vincent Dowd Arts reporter, BBC World Service, 12/1/2011, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-15982797)
So what do you think – does Britain have it right, should entrance to museums be free? Leave your thoughts below.
In his Amazon.com best-selling book, Xanadu Gallery owner Jason Horejs shares insights gained over a life-time in the art business.