Jonathan Jones, 'The drop in museum visitors reveals a nation without aspiration or hope' Guardian Thursday 2 February 2017
Britain’s leading museums and galleries, according to figures released by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, have dramatically lost visitors. Museums including the Tate galleries, National Gallery, VandA and British Museum collectively clocked up 47.6 million people from April 2015 to March 2016 – a significant fall from the previous year and the end of a British museum boom that had become a matter of national pride. Our museums are no longer on the up; the culture-hungry crowds are not growing. Why? And what is to be done?. This figure is even more troubling when you see it in context. It confirms earlier signs of a flagging interest in museums in Britain [...]The decline involves overseas and British visitors, for the report says there were “an estimated 22.4m visits to sponsored museums in 2015-16 by overseas visitors, accounting for 47.1% of all visits. This was consistent with 2014-15, when overseas visitors accounted for 47% of all visits.” [...] Some 23.8 million people from overseas went to our big museums in 2014/15. That number fell by about 1.4 million in 2015-16. [...] The most shocking of these statistics is the 6.9% decrease (after adjustment) in educational visits and participation in on-site activities for under-18s. This is the most dramatic fall in any of the data, and it shows why the DCMS is not too keen to flaunt this report. [...]And we all know that the response is going to be: 'more metal detecting' and 'more Treasure in showcases will bring 'em back!' that seems like a policy exhibiting the loss of hope.
These figures reveal how Britain is failing its young people, and losing the passion for self-improvement that our free public museums used to nurture. A nation that loses interest in museums has not just lost its head. It has lost hope.