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Press release

Treasurehouse and powerhouse

The Natural History Museum reveals its value to the nation

The Natural History Museum today reveals its value to the nation – and beyond – with the publication of the Treasurehouse and Powerhouse report, outlining its scientific, cultural and economic impact. This is the first publication of its kind to be commissioned by the Museum.

Treasurehouse and Powerhouse provides a fresh, new way of understanding the Natural History Museum. It highlights the important contribution made by the Museum by stating the significant, sometimes surprising and wide-ranging impact it has in the local, national and international community. The report also warns that the threat of diminishing resources from the government will put continuation of the Museum’s world-class activities at risk.

‘For the first time we have a clear picture of how the Natural History Museum contributes to the nation, scientifically, culturally and economically,’ said Sir Neil Chalmers, Director of the Natural History Museum ‘Treasurehouse and Powerhouse conveys the challenges we face as we balance our varied role as a leading tourist attraction, a research institution with over 300 scientists, as guardians of more than 70 million natural history specimens, as custodians of one of London’s iconic historic buildings and in delivering a learning, outreach and access agenda on behalf of the government,’ he said.

The key findings of Treasurehouse and Powerhouse show the Natural History Museum:

  • Enjoys more than three million visitors each year. This is greater than the population of London at the time the Museum was built, in 1881.
  • Had a turnover of £52m in 2002/3. This is similar to a Premiership football team’s annual turnover and more than that of the Greater London Authority. This sum is significant as it indicates a cascade of resources into the local, regional and national economies.
  • Generates £4 to the economy for every £1 provided by its annual government grant, which currently stands at £38m.
  • Adds £190m to the economy every year. This reflects the full impact of the Natural History Museum and the expenditure it generates from visitors.
  • Extends its economic impact outside London due to the wide geographic spread of its employees. Many staff live outside London in areas such as Brighton, Guildford, Luton and Milton Keynes, which mean Museum employment contributes directly into the local economies of many neighbourhoods beyond London.
  • Is the UK’s fifth most popular free visitor attraction. 13.5% of all international tourists in London decide to visit the Natural History Museum.
  • Produces scientific research equal to that produced by 5- and 5*- rated earth and life science departments in leading UK universities such as Cambridge University, Imperial College London and University College London.
  • Welcomes 125,000 school children each year, an equivalent of 6,250 individual classes throughout the year or 325 pupils every day of the school year, equivalent to a medium-sized primary school.
  • Clearly does an excellent job of attracting not just traditional museum-goers, but also a large number of children and other new audiences.
  • Is the most efficient natural history museum amongst its international peers – those being the world’s top three natural history museums in Paris, New York and Washington. The Natural History Museum operates with fewer staff and a lower turnover but accommodates a similar number of visitors.

The report was compiled by Tony Travers of the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) and Stephen Glaister of Imperial College who have brought together economic and other disciplines in their study of the Natural History Museum. Academic research skills have been used to ensure a rigorous result.

Commenting on the report’s findings, Tony Travers said, ‘There is no doubt that the Natural History Museum has been a great success in recent years. It has modernised its image and welcomed large numbers of new visitors while maintaining its traditional roles and responsibilities. As a classic museum, an academic institution, a mass tourism destination and a large public space, it is one of the most complex organisations that we have assessed. The Museum accepts and enjoys its extraordinary position – but this does not make the maintenance of this position any less challenging. It enjoys great affection from leaders, staff and the public and yet its value to the country appears often to be overlooked. As outsiders looking in at the Natural History Museum, it is clear from our study that the present funding regime cannot fully support the wide range of cultural, curatorial and tourist needs of such a modern institution.’

Sir Neil Chalmers, Director of the Natural History Museum comments, ‘The nation should be proud of what the Museum is achieving despite an ever-changing and increasingly competitive environment. The report does raise some alarm bells and it is now up to us to look at how we can use the information in the report to make the Museum even more successful in the future.’

Treasurehouse and Powerhouse is available in full at or can be requested by calling the Natural History Museum’s Press Office on 0207 942 5654.

- Ends -

Notes for editors

  • Winner of the 2003 Visitor Attraction of the Year award, the Natural History Museum is also a world-leading science research centre. Through its collections and scientific expertise, the Museum is helping to conserve the extraordinary richness and diversity of the natural world with groundbreaking projects in 68 countries. The Museum is committed to encouraging public engagement with science. This has been greatly enhanced by the Darwin Centre, a major new initiative, which offers visitors unique access behind the scenes of the Museum. Phase One of the project opened to the public in 2002 and Phase Two is scheduled to open in 2008.
  • The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) is the world's leading social sciences institution for teaching and research. Based in the heart of London, LSE has more than 8,000 full and part-time students from more than 150 countries world-wide. Around half of the students are undergraduates, the other half postgraduates and researchers, studying in 19 departments and around 30 research centres or institutes. LSE alumni and former staff include 13 Nobel prize winners, 29 past or present Heads of State, and around 60 current UK MPs or members of the House of Lords. Tony Travers is director of LSE's Greater London Group, which carries out research into subjects relating to the government and economy of cities. His latest book was published recently entitled The Politics of London: governing an ungovernable city (Palgrave Macmillan, 2004).
  • Britain’s top 10 free visitor attractions are Blackpool Pleasure Beach (6.2m), Tate Modern (4.6m), British Museum (4.6m), National Gallery (4.1m), Natural History Museum (3m), Victoria & Albert Museum (2.7m), Science Museum (2.6m), Pleasureland, Southport (2m), National Portrait Gallery (1.5m), Tate Britain (1.2m). Source: Survey of visits to visitor attractions, UK Tourism Facts, 2002.

If you would like to interview Sir Neil Chalmers or Tony Travers, request images or further exhibition information, please contact:

Kristy Jones, Sarah Hoyle or Rebecca Chetley, Natural History Museum Press Office
Tel: 020 7942 5077/5654 Email:
(not for publication)


  • The Natural History Museum is open Monday - Saturday 10.00-17.50, Sunday-11.00-17.50
  • The Natural History Museum's public enquiries telephone number is 020 7942 5000
  • The Museum is accessible to visitors in wheelchairs. For access details telephone 020 7942 5000
  • Entry to the Museum: FREE

Issued February 2004