For their #300 issue, The Art Newspaper has gathered lots of data – including some from national government – about museum attendance and their evolution. Key findings regarding UK institutions are not so enthusiastic and alert on the decline of national museum visitors.

Evolution of the attendance for largest British museums Attendance for the six largest British museums. Data: The Art Newspaper

To simplify, in the last two years, British national museums have lost 4.3 million visitors, dropping from 50.8 million in 2014 to 46.5 in 2015 (-8.5%). One technicality can explain some of it though. The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has changed the way the Tyne & Wear Museums are funded, de facto changing the studied panel of institutions. But even when removing this specific museum from the 2014 figures, we still face a 2.5 million drop in attendance (-5%).

National Portrait Gallery National Portrait Gallery. Courtesy Art Fund

As expressed by Gabriele Finaldi, director of the National Gallery (5.2 million visitors), “overseas visitor numbers were not down and the fall seemed to be from the UK”. The Art Newspaper then tries to explain this phenomenon by looking into some more figures.

Tate Britain Tate Britain. Courtesy Tate Britain

The fear of other terrorist attacked is present – visits by children under 16 is down by 6%. The ticket prices have raised by 35% within four years for temporary “blockbuster” exhibitions – taking the example of “Picasso 1932” with standard entrance fee at £22. The price of traveling within the UK and more generally the pressure on peoples personal budgets, leaves less room for Culture. Budget cuts in 2010 starts to have an impact on the qualities of the artistic propositions which – in turn – has an impact on visitor engagement.

Tate Modern Tate Modern. Photo Toa Heftiba

Even if everything is certainely not perfect, lets just not forget that attendance is still 13.5% higher than ten years ago…

If you want to dig more in museums’ latest trends, check out The Art Newspaper #300 issue.

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