26 Nov 2016
What Is the Impact of Free Admission to Museums?
The United Kingdom's Association of Independent Museums (AIM) has just published new research to help museums understand the impact of charging for admission, or not, on all aspects of operating a successful museum. The revealing results dispel some myths that persist around this issue and will enable museums to make evidence-based decisions in this sometimes contentious area – but one that is vital to museums’ future sustainability. The research report is accompanied by a practical guide that museums can use to help them make decisions about whether an admission charge is right for their museum and if so, what price they should set. AIM commissioned the study, ‘Taking Charge: evaluating the evidence’, and its accompanying guide for people running museums ‘Successfully Setting Admissions Policy and Pricing’ from DC Research, in partnership with Arts Council England and the Welsh Government. The aim of the research was to understand the experience of museums that have moved from free admission to charging, or vice versa, or to hybrid models, and to investigate pricing strategies and their impact on visitor numbers, diversity, income, visitor satisfaction, and reputation and relationships. Key findings from the research included:
- A large proportion of independent museums provide free admission, and a large proportion of local authority museums charge, so there is no ‘typical’ charging or free-entry museum.
- What a museum charges has no effect on the diversity of its audience - both charging and free-entry museums have similar demographic profiles for their visitors.
- Spend in shops and cafes, as well as donations from visitors, are more impacted by other factors than whether a museum charges for admission or not.
27 Jan 2019