British Museums Can't Compete With the Games: Attendance at U.K. Institutions Dropped During Olympics

British Museums Can't Compete With the Games: Attendance at U.K. Institutions Dropped During Olympics
The front facade of the National Gallery, London, facing onto Trafalgar Square.
(Photo by Nathan Stazicker)

It was supposed to be the first Olympic Games to put sports and arts on an equal footing. No expense was spared. Over the last four years, the Cultural Olympiad had gathered ambitious art projects across the country, leading to the London 2012 Festival, with its 25,000 artists and 12,000 events.

Yet museums seem not to have benefited from this cultural frenzy. According to the Museums Journal, museums in Central London suffered a massive drop in attendance over the summer. The National Gallery attracted 40 percent fewer visitors during the first week of August, the British Museum lost 169,970 visitors in July, and the National Portrait Gallery, 58,461. Ticket sales dropped at Tate Britain and Tate Modern, and the National History Museum had about 8,000 fewer visitors over July and August.

 

Even the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, which is part of the Olympic equestrian arena and had extended its opening hours for the occasion, recorded a decreased footfall, losing 11,167 visitors in July, although it saw an extra 63,356 visitors in June. The Museum of London also lost 8,264 visitors but experienced a similar increase in June. In Hackney, the Museum of Childhood reported a very modest increase in visitors (291 in June and 558 in July), but twice as many sales in the shop.

According to the report, the only real winner is Much Wenlock in Shropshire, birthplace of Dr William Penny Brookes, one of the inspirations for the modern Olympic games. The local museum received 9,647 visitors in July, three times more than usual.

This article also appears on ARTINFO U.K.

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