The Thin End Of The Wedge
Blimey – they slipped that one in quietly. I hadn’t noticed, but then I guess that was the whole idea. It was Dolan who noticed it in the Greenwich Gazette , and the GG only found out because they were expecting foriegn visitors. Yup, folks, from March, we’ll all have to pay a tenner to get through the gates to the Old Royal Observatory, even if we only want to stand with one foot in each hemisphere. Actually, especially if we only want to stand with one foot in each hemisphere, since, I guessing, if they’re honest, that’s all a good 80% of tourists want.
The National Maritime Museum remains free (understandably; it’s so sparsely populated with objects, no one would pay. There was an article on BBC news the other day about the amount the NMM spend on storage – something I don’t have an issue with at all, it’s all part of the museum-gig – but if they’d just put some stuff on display they might not have to put up with non-stories on slow-news days like that. I note the BBC missed the real issue about the charges too. We all did. Thank you for noticing, GG..)
I guess the loophole is that national collections have to be free, but they can charge for special exhibitions. Somebody looked at the figures, realised that every tourist ever wants that photo, rubbed their hands together and quietly put a little note at the bottom of the page of the times and admissions page. The one consolation is that the fee is for a yearly ticket so if Greenwich Gazette has more than one set of Canadian visitors only their friends will have to pay next time.
Is this the beginning of the end for free admission to museums in England? Some might say it was coming, given the cuts, and that it might even-things out for the smaller places that aren’t national collections, like the Fan Museum. Others think that since they have to pay to visit museums in other countries, free admission for all makes saps of us. Some think that British people should have some sort of pass that gets them in free, leaving the tourists to pay (the most extreme – and in my view justified in that particular instance – case that I know of is in Rwanda where locals pay $10 to see the gorillas; tourists pay $250. In that case it’s still probably weighted towards the tourists). Most believe that the national collections belong to all, they’re paid for in taxes and should be free to all.
Thing is, this should not just be about the Observatory, but charging for museums in general. Seems to me that by quietly slipping in through the back door, Britain’s museums are seeking to avoid the bigger debate – should we be paying to get into national collections, and if so, how?
Whatever we think, we have until March to get our hides over to the Observatory one – or six -last times.