Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by Resource


  1.1  Thank you for giving us this opportunity to submit written evidence to your inquiry into tourism information and promotion in response to the foot and mouth disease outbreak. Resource: the Council for Museums, Archives and Libraries is a strategic agency working with museums, libraries and archives across the UK. It replaced the Museums and Galleries Commission and the Library and Information Commission in April 2000. Further information can be found at our web site—

  1.2  The essence of our response is:

    —  45 per cent of UK museum visitors state that they visit when on a holiday or short break.

    —  Museums are thus an important part of rural tourism, and any decrease in UK short breaks will have a knock-on effect on museums.

    —  Many rural museums are independent charities and operate without subsidy.

    —  In March, those that remained closed lost a total of around £0.5 million in revenue.

    —  The 100 major rural and countryside museums generate 30 per cent of their annual revenue in April and May.

    —  Some may therefore risk permanent closure as a result of interruption of services caused by the foot and mouth outbreak, to the detriment of the rural economy generally.

    —  Resource has proposed to the Secretary of State a £5 million stabilisation fund to help rural and countryside museums recover from the crisis.

2.  Submission

  2.1  More people visit museums in the UK each year than attend sporting events and rock concerts. Over 80 million people a year visit our 2,500 museums, with nearly 28 per cent of the UK public telling a recent MORI poll, commissioned by Resource, that they had been to a museum or gallery within the previous 12 months. In 1999, trips of one night or more by UK residents to England accounted for 123.3 million trips, and visits to countryside have grown by 69 per cent between 1990 and 1999. Since 45 per cent of visitors stated that they visited museums when they were on a holiday or short break in the UK, any decrease in domestic holidays will have a knock-on effect on museum and gallery visits.

  2.2  Many independent museums are among the largest tourism attractions in their region. Significant rural or countryside museums include: Beamish—the North of England Open Air Museum; the Weald and Downland Museum; Ironbridge Gorge Museum; the Tank Museum in Dorset; and the Wordsworth Trust in Grasmere. They, and others like them, are deeply rooted in their local communities, providing both employment opportunities and a community focus, and making a significant contribution to the rural economy. Beamish, for example, directly employs 200 people and indirectly supports a further 400 jobs.

  2.3  However, such museums often operate on very narrow financial margins. Unlike public libraries, which are a statutory service and can cope with, for example, the need to restrict mobile library visits, many rural museums are independent and receive little or no public subsidy. Instead they rely on income from admissions, retail and catering to sustain their operations. Resource estimates that major rural and countryside museums that would normally have opened in March lost around £0.5 million in revenue during that month as a result of remaining closed, as well as incurring around £300,000 in costs where precautionary measures had to be taken in respect of animals.

  2.4  The 100 major rural and countryside museums generate about 30 per cent of their total annual revenue—around £3 million—in April and May. The current crisis—and especially earlier official advice to keep out of the countryside—has already seriously damaged their potential for profitable operation for the current season, and most have very limited financial reserves.

  2.5  Now that the policy has been reversed, and people are being encouraged to appreciate that the countryside is again open for business, we are concerned that museum's special plight should not be overlooked. Whilst they are but part of the bigger rural economy picture, the MORI poll nevertheless shows that they form an important part of the short UK break business. If any are forced to close permanently as a result of the foot and mouth outbreak, then there will be a knock-on effect on rural tourism generally.

  2.6  Resource is collaborating with the Area Museums Councils, the Museums Association and the Association of Independent Museums in gathering information on the impact of the outbreak on museums. With their assistance, we will be preparing monthly reports quantifying the scale of losses arising from the outbreak. Although we recognise that matters of financial assistance are outside the inquiry's expected terms of reference, it may help you to know that Resource's Chairman Lord Evans has written to the Secretary of State, making clear the important contribution that museums make to the rural economy, and proposing a £5 million stabilisation fund to help them recover from the effects of the crisis. The full text of Lord Evans's letter is appended[2].

April 2001

2   Not printed. Back

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