The Design Museum to scrap entry charges from 2016 - Museums Association

The Design Museum to scrap entry charges from 2016

Museum added to government’s VAT refund scheme
Profile image for Rebecca Atkinson
Rebecca Atkinson
The Design Museum in London will offer free entry to its permanent collection when it relocates to the former Commonwealth Institute building in Kensington in 2016.

The museum, which normally charges £12.40 for adult admission to its site in Bermondsey, south London, has been included on the government’s VAT refund scheme.

The scheme allows museums that offer free entry to recoup VAT on purchase costs relating to their collection, including storage and conservation, and buildings.

Its inclusion in the scheme means the Design Museum will receive up to £1.8m VAT back on the construction costs of the new building and around £150,000 in VAT on running costs each year.

Visitor numbers are forecast to double to more than 650,000 in the first year after the museum relocates.

Alice Black, the Design Museum's deputy director, said: "It's very important for us to offer free entry because our big ambition is to show many more people how design is relevant to them and their lives, and admission is inevitably a barrier to that."

Entry charges currently account for about 35-40% of the museum's income, with an equal amount brought in from fundraising and commercial opportunities respectively.

The Design Museum's funding from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport is ending this year, and although it is an arts council national portfolio organisation, Black says this represents 2-3% of its overall budget.

"We have to finance most of our activity ourselves and like other museums will be looking at sponsorship, trusts and foundations," she says.

The museum will charge entry to its temporary exhibition programme, with an expected six or seven shows a year. It also intends to increase its events programme and other commercial opportunities.

Earlier this year the VAT refund scheme was extended to include the V&A Museum of Design in Dundee and the University of Leicester’s art centre, Embrace Arts. According to the government, the VAT refund scheme provides about £60m of support each year to more than 120 museums and galleries.

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