Ulster Museum

Most deprived least likely to visit museums in Northern Ireland

Patrick Steel, 30.10.2013
Government funds scheme at NMNI to tackle social exclusion
Figures published by Northern Ireland’s Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure (DCAL) show that adults living in deprived areas are least likely to have visited a museum.

The Continuous Household Survey 2012/13 found that although there was an overall increase in museum visits in Northern Ireland, 22% of people living in the most deprived areas had never visited a museum in their lifetime.

Paddy Gilmore, National Museums Northern Ireland's (NMNI) director of learning and partnership, said: “Obviously museums need to do more, but there has been a big push within DCAL and the Northern Ireland government to look at ways in which museums can help tackle poverty and social exclusion.”

NMNI received £300,000 from DCAL this year to fund a social inclusion programme from July 2013 to March 2014 which allows NMNI’s museums to go into schools and communities, and target those people least likely to come to the museum.

Crucially, said Gilmore, as well as free entry to the museum the programme also funds free transport, a major barrier to entry for low or no income earners.

He also pointed to NMNI’s partnership work with community organisations such as Barnado’s and the Northern Ireland Housing Executive’s social exclusion unit.

Hannah Crowdy, the Museums Association’s Northern Ireland representative, said: “I do think museums need to do more, but in a more concerted way and by prioritising this work rather than embarking on a new way of working per se.

“Social inclusion has never been ignored here, and there have been excellent projects over the years, but the stance DCAL is now taking presents greater opportunities for museums, by bringing frameworks, strategies and funding (essentially a supportive infrastructure) behind this type of work.

"This means more can be achieved which ultimately means that we are in a better position to tackle social exclusion.”