Today the Natural History Museum will welcome its 25 millionth visitor since December 2001, when the admission charge to the Museum was removed by Trustees with financial support from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. But, despite the huge role the Museum can play during the economic downturn, only around half of Britons (45 per cent*) even know that entry to the Natural History Museum is free.
Dr Michael Dixon, Director of the Natural History Museum, comments, ‘Since general admission charges were removed seven-and–a-half years ago, we have seen our visitor figures more than double – reaching 3.7million last year – but it is astonishing that so many people don’t know we are free. With the summer holidays fast approaching, families will be looking for ways to entertain their children, but they may well be under increasing financial strain due to the economic downturn. A visit to the Natural History Museum or other free, national museums, can be a truly inspirational experience, taking people away from the realities of every day life for
The Natural History Museum is famous for its beautiful Victorian building with galleries ranging from the Central Hall and Mammals, home to the iconic Diplodocus and blue whale, to the Earth Galleries and Human Biology, all of which are free to visit. However, the Natural History Museum is also a world-leading science research centre and from September 2009, when the Darwin Centre opens, visitors will be able to explore the collections, interact with scientists and see for themselves how the collections we care for are helping to address current issues such as air quality, the impact of climate change on biodiversity, the causes of disease and the maintenance of delicate ecosystems around the world.
Dr Dixon adds, ‘As well as offering visitors a fascinating day out at no cost, the Natural History Museum has a much wider role to play in the recession. The Museum is an internationally important visitor attraction – up to 40 per cent of our visitors are from oversees – that helps support London’s tourist economy and encourages oversees visitors to spend their money locally.
The Natural History Museum also plays a role in stimulating the knowledge based economy in Britain, not just through its world-class scientific research but also with art, design, media and industries having drawn inspiration from us. We also benefit from hundreds of volunteers each year who do anything from explaining evolution to children to pinning thousands of beetles which is a rewarding experience for volunteers of any age of background, particularly at a time of economic difficulty.’