New government figures have revealed that the highest number of people have visited DCMS-sponsored museums and galleries since records began more than 15 years ago.

Visitor numbers at the 15 museums and galleries to receive DCMS backing saw a year-on-year 5.5% increase in 2018/19, taking the total to almost 50 million. Around half of all visitors were from overseas and 8.5 million were children.

Arts minister Helen Whately said: “It’s fantastic to see the huge rise in the number of visits by children and young people – showing that our museums and galleries are doing a great job attracting new audiences and reaching a new generation.”

DCMS-sponsored museums make up seven of the top ten most popular free visitor attractions in the UK. British Museum, Tate Modern, Natural History Museum and the V&A are also in the top ten most popular art museums globally for 2018.

Provincial positivity

Museums and galleries outside London were the biggest winners throughout the fruitful year, with the newly-published figures revealing an 11% leap in visitor numbers compared to 2017/18.

National Museums Liverpool’s China’s first Emperor and The Terracotta Warriors and the Double Fantasy: John and Yoko exhibitions are referenced as a specific example of driving footfall away from the capital. The museum saw a 20% increase in visitor numbers, taking its statistics over 4 million.

Natural History Museum’s Life in the Dark exhibition and ‘Kids Go Free’ campaign are cited as having contributed heavily to the rise in children visiting museums and galleries.

Website visits were also up 8% for 2018/19. A combined 123 million unique website visits were amassed by the sites of DCMS-sponsored institutions.

Sir Ian Blatchford, chairman of the National Museum Directors’ Council referenced the “strong and consistent growth in visits to museums,” before adding, “today’s announcement shows not only the important part museums play in encouraging tourism, but also their vibrant, vital role at the heart of our communities.”

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