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British galleries suffer major decline in visitor numbers

3rd February 2017
British galleries suffer major decline in visitor numbers

Some of the UK's major attractions have seen a dramatic fall in the total number of visitors last year

For the first time in nearly a decade, some of the UK's biggest museums and art galleries saw a decline of almost 2 million visitors last year.

A recent report from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport found that just under 48 million people visited an attraction in the UK between April 2015 and April 2016,  including fantastic locations such as Tate Modern, the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Imperial War Museum - this is a decline of over 2 million visitors from the previous 12 month period.

The biggest percentage of this decline was surprisingly due to a drop in the number of young people visiting museums and art galleries for educational purposes such as school days out, dropping by 6% on the previous year.

The Museums Association blamed security fears over terrorism, and a possible lack of blockbuster exhibitions on the scale of the V&A’s David Bowie show, for the drop in numbers.

The greatest fall in numbers was in fact from the Tate group. Tate Modern, Tate Britain, Tate Liverpool and Tate St Ives saw a drop from 7.9 million to 6.7 million. This paved the way for the British Museum to once again become the most popular institution, attracting just under 7 million visitors across 2016.

Tate Group stated that the 2014 Tate Modern exhibition for Matisse Cutouts drew in over half a million visitors, making it the site's most popular exhibition ever. The long-awaited extension for Tate Modern, Switch House, drew in a record-breaking 143,000 visitors on its opening weekend.

Alistair Brown, a spokesperson for the Museums Association, said: “These figures are clearly disappointing. As schools come under greater pressure, they are finding it harder to devote time to out-of-class activities such as museum visits. Children are increasingly missing out on valuable experiences that bring history, science and culture to life and expose them to new ideas.

“Last week, the government welcomed the Imagine Nation report that demonstrated the value of cultural learning, but these figures show that they need to do more to help schools and museums work together.”

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