Visitors at the National Gallery

Are increasing visitor numbers sustainable?

Rebecca Atkinson, 02.01.2013
Vote in our poll and have your say
New government figures show that attendance rates to museums, galleries and heritage sites hit record highs last year despite on-going budget cuts, restructures and closures.

The Taking Part survey, which covers the period from October 2011 to September 2012, found that more than 50% of people questioned had visited a museum or gallery in the last year, up from 42% when the survey began in 2005/06.

Nearly three quarters of adults questioned said they had visited a heritage site in the last year – the highest proportion since the survey began in 2005/06.

But is the rise in visitor numbers sustainable, especially in the current climate? Vote in the Museums Journal poll and have your say.


Are increasing visitor numbers sustainable?


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16.01.2013, 16:29
In terms of 'heritage sites' as you call them, historic houses for example, it may not be sustainable but for multiple reasons. Firstly increasing visitor numbers over and above the carefully considered conservation limits inevitably causes damage to the very thing that people come to see. More informal access, in other words less restrictions such as ropes or physical protection from fragile objects/rooms with larger numbers of visitors can cause irreparable damage. Less information for visitors on the importance of preventative conservation and more emphasis on very enjoyable visitor scores can incur damage and less understanding of the need to protect the 'heritage' experience that they want to enjoy. It's a tough and challenging balance that, in some organisations, has tipped too far in the wrong direction.
Paul Jennings
Managing Director, Xcentuate Limited
16.01.2013, 09:52
The natural instinct to this question is to say no, and in most cases I think that's the case. Regular investment, an innovative and creative leadership team and an emphasis on regular performance reviews and adjustments can, in a relatively stable environment, deliver steady growth.
Ian Dejardin
Director, Dulwich Picture Gallery
07.01.2013, 14:27
Numbers can surely be sustained - but the real issue is consistency. High visitor figures tend to coincide with popular exhibitions - and more specifically, for instance, with the last week or two of a popular exhibition. If high numbers could be spread out evenly, no problem. But THERE'S THE RUB...