The Museum of London Docklands (MoLD) is free to visit today, after its admission was dropped to bring it in line with London’s many free museums. The museum, which covers 2000 years of London’s port history, had charged 5 for adults and 3 concessions, but hopes to increase visitor numbers after today’s news.
The MoLD will now join the pantheon of London museums with no entry charge, that includes the British Museum, Petrie Museum and the Victoria & Albert Museum. Entry to national museums in Britain was made free in 2001, a move which instantly bumped attendance figures up by 70%.
However there has been a vocal opposition to the move in recent years, not least from Mayor of London Boris Johnson, whose spokesman tells the Times, “Having visited the Met(ropolitan Museum of Art, New York) last week, he (the Mayor) was impressed by how they maximise voluntary contributions and believes there are lessons to be learnt from America about increasing philanthropic giving.”
Indeed, the issue may play a part in this year’s general election: a 2007 statement from the Tories claimed they would abolish the free entry rule if they win power. Then-culture minister Tessa Jowell slammed the proposal, saying, “The policy of opening up museums and art galleries has hugely increased visitor numbers, to the benefit of people from all classes and ages.
“David Cameron’s party talks about wanting to be more inclusive and yet they are promoting a policy that is a return to Thatcherism and would exclude the less well-off,” she added. The British Museum have even defended their free policy as a reason to keep the Elgin Marbles, claiming it allows more people to see them than if they returned to Athens.
The MoLD is housed in a striking Georgian warehouse near Canary Wharf, London’s glossy financial heart. Its aim is to chronicle the city’s history through the River Thames from Roman times to today, showing how war, trade and immigration have shaped the area. The Louvre in Paris remains the world’s most visited museum with 8.5million attendees per year. A full-day pass costs 9.50 (8.40). The British Museum is next on the list with just over six million visitors.
Do you think Britain’s national museums should return to charging visitors?