3 of the world’s top 5 most-visited museums are based in England, and nearly 40 million people visit our national museums and galleries each year.
Our national museums and galleries are truly world-leading. They are important centres for scholarship and research, as well as being hugely popular visitor attractions, enriching people’s lives and educating in equal measure.
Beyond our national museums, which are funded directly by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), England has a huge network of specialist and regional museums, run by charities, local authorities and educational establishments. Many of these receive public funding from the National Lottery.
We are maintaining world-leading museums and galleries, and supporting the wider museum sector, by:
- providing funding for national museums and galleries
- providing free public access to the permanent collections of national museums and galleries
- funding the Arts Council to provide support to ‘non-national’ museums (which are those museums who are not governed by primary legislation)
- continuing to fund ‘capital improvements’ (like renewing displays or interpretation) for museums and galleries, through the DCMS/Wolfson Fund
We are working to improve the collections and exhibitions in museums and galleries by:
- letting people donate items of cultural and historical importance to the state in full or part payment of tax, through the Acceptance in Lieu Scheme
- providing funding and setting policy for our export licensing system, which regulates the movement of art and cultural objects
- providing an alternative to commercial insurance which allows the public access to objects within the UK that might not otherwise be available, through the Government Indemnity Scheme
- protecting objects on loan from abroad for temporary exhibition in UK museums and galleries from court-ordered seizure
We are helping to ensure potentially sensitive objects are handled appropriately by:
- providing advice to national museums and galleries, including on how they can prevent illicit trade in cultural objects, and how they can handle human remains in their collections
- handling claims from people, or their heirs, who lost property during the Nazi era, which is now held in UK national collections
- providing statutory guidance on the criteria to be taken into consideration when making a decision about whether or not to grant an export licence
The government introduced universal free entrance to national museums and galleries in December 2001 and from then until 2011-12, visits to those institutions that used to charge an entrance fee have increased by 158%. We restated our commitment to free entry in October 2010 as part of the 2010 Spending Review.
There were 40 million visits to national museums and galleries in the 2011/12 financial year, a record number. Many museums including the National Gallery, National Portrait Gallery, the Natural History Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum recorded their highest visitor figures ever.