AIM report released
Young museum visitors. Source: Association of Independent Museums.
Museum charging doesn’t influence audience diversity, finds AIM report, NMDC newsletter, October 2016
The Association of Independent Museums has published a major report on museums and charging, drawing from a survey of 311 institutions. The research included national, independent and local authority museums. 57% of those surveyed charged in some way (including for temporary exhibitions only), 43% did not charge at all for admissions. The research also included site visits to 20 museums where approaches to charging have changed in recent years. The report found:
- There is no typical picture of a museum which charges – one in three local authority museums charge and one in three independent museums do not.
- Free museums do not attract more diverse audiences than charging museums. This may be because of special conditions for local people, the young and those on lower incomes offered by charging museums.
- However, visitors stay longer in museums with an entry charge
There is no consistent relationship between charging and secondary spend at museum shops and cafes, although there is some suggestion that secondary spend is more likely at some charging museums.
Museums are more likely to charge where the visitor economy is significant for income generation in the area as a whole.
Donations are not strongly affected by admissions policy, and tend to be shaped by other factors.
The report includes snapshots from museums which have moved to charging: in Brighton, although local residents still receive free entry, the perception of charging led to a fall in local admissions. At Birmingham Museums Trust, staff attitudes to charging – from positive to apologetic, affected how visitors responded to admissions fees. AIM has also published a practical 20-page document on assessing whether and how much to charge for an attraction. M+H, AIM, AIM (publication on assessing how to charge).