Understanding the economic impact of museums

Museums and galleries in Britain: economic, creative and social impacts

In 2006 the NMDC and the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA) jointly commissioned this report by Tony Travers of the London School of Economics which analyses a number of Britain’s leading museums and galleries in terms of visitor numbers, economic impacts, civic functions and contributions to the country’s creativity and educational performance.

The report found that "the UK's museums and galleries could, with greater capacity to expand and improve, allow this country to be a world leader in creativity and scholarship." The report's positive findings included:

  • Britain's museums and galleries are among the very best in the world. There is no other country in the world with such a powerful museum and gallery grouping within such a relatively small space.
  • The economic benefits of the UK's major museums and galleries are estimated to be £1.5 billion per annum taking into account turnover and visitor expenditure. Wider economic impacts would be still greater.
  • The annual turnover of Britain's major museums and galleries exceeds £900 million. Broadly £1 in every £1,000 in the UK economy can be directly related to the museum and gallery sector. The major museums and galleries spend over £650 million a year.
  • New museums and galleries have contributed to the economic and social regeneration of industrial cities.
  • There are 3,000 volunteers and over 140,000 friends linked to museums in the study a major contribution to civic engagement.
  • There are over 42 million visits each year to major museums and galleries. It is more than attendance at the Premiership League plus the whole of the rest of league football for 2004-05. It is 50% more than the number of people who annually visit the West End and Broadway theatres combined.
  • Seven of the top ten visitor attractions in the UK are museums. Museums and galleries are a significant factor in attracting visitors to the UK but they need to develop if they are to continue to complete against institutions that are developing in other countries.
  • The kinds of people visiting museums are changing. Regional museum visits by people from lower socio-economic groups and by black and minority ethnic groups increased by 15.2% and 60% respectively in 2002-04.
  • In 2005-06 there were over 100 million website visits for the major museums and galleries covered by the report.

Read more in the press release.
Download the full report.

Valuing museums: impact and innovation among national museums

The 2006 report Museums and Galleries in Britain: Economic, Creative and Social Impacts builds on research conducted by Tony Travers, LSE and Stephen Glaister, Imperial College, published in 2004: Valuing Museums: Impact and Innovation Among National Museums. 

This report details the economic, educational and broader cultural impact of the national museums and galleries. Set out against the context of the wider objectives of these institutions, government policy and funding requirements, the report finds a sector which has unique international scale and standing and that, with an annual impact of £2bn, is significant economically.

Beyond this, the extent of the contributions these institutions make to the cross-Whitehall agendas of education, social inclusion and the regions are highlighted, while the report acknowledges that, without additional investment in their infrastructures, national museums and galleries cannot sustain these levels of activity.
Download the report.