Examination of Witnesses (Questions 20
WEDNESDAY 31 JANUARY 2001
20. Mr Wilson, you were the Master of the Armouries
responsible for the National Museum of Arms and Armour at the
Tower, one of the magnet visitor attractions in the world. Have
you ever been in charge of a museum which is away from such a
magnet of attraction?
(Mr Wilson) I have spent my career in
the Royal Armouries, so I have been in charge of the Royal Armouries
in the Tower, at its Artillery Museum at Fort Nelson and now at
its Leeds home.
21. Is that answer no?
(Mr Wilson) In that I have not worked
in any other museum, yes.
22. This report and the consequences of the
problem seem to hinge on visitor numbers. It says visitor numbers
are the key and it made losses from the first day it opened in
1996 because of that. The projections for visitor numbers look
five times more exaggerated than the Dome's turned out to be on
page 3. What were you comparing your likely visitor numbers with?
What was your comparable fairly new museum? What was your comparator?
What made you think that you might get 1.2 million visitors which
would make you overnight one of the top ten visitor attractions
in Britain? Which other museums had you looked at and said you
would do as well as them or double them?
(Mr Wilson) To reinforce what I said
before, we took the advice of four consultants all of whom came
up with similar figures.
23. I am not asking about consultants. Name
(Mr Wilson) At the time we were looking
at museums and attractions outside of London, like the Jorvik
Viking Centre, like the National Railway Museum, like the National
Museum of Photography and Film in Bradford, those sorts of areas,
those sorts of museums.
24. What was the lesson which was learned from
the Jorvik Centre?
(Mr Wilson) The Jorvik Centre started
very well, was very popular for a considerable amount of time
and has gradually become less so; a lot of people think because
it did not have sufficient money to re-invest in its product.
25. How many visitors does it get?
(Mr Wilson) Currently I believe somewhere
between 400,000 and 500,000.
26. It is two and a half times more successful
than the Royal Armouries Museum.
(Mr Wilson) In 1990 it was getting 865,000.
27. Yes, but in 1996 you were getting 324,000.
(Mr Wilson) In a part year; the first
full year was about 400,000.
28. We do not have a 400,000 figure here.
(Mr Wilson) You will not.
(Mr O'Boyle) It opened on 30 March, so
it is nine months for the calendar year. The actual full year
would be March to March, which is 400,000.
29. How much does ticket price affect visitor
(Mr Wilson) My previous point was that
we do not know. It was one of a number of potential contributing
30. I know. The higher the price, the fewer
people go. I think that is accepted.
(Mr Wilson) That is accepted. The question
is how steep is the curve or line from there downwards and that
is different for every attraction, or appears to be different
for every attraction.
31. You had a support group of museum experts
who I understand were telling you the price was too high to start
with. Is that correct?
(Mr Wilson) We in the Royal Armouries,
32. I am sorry I cannot have a long answer.
Is it correct that the support group said your ticket price regime
was too high?
(Mr Wilson) No. It is correct to say
that we in the Royal Armouries were concerned about the ticket
price and made those feelings known to Royal Armouries (International).
They were looking at the MEW research which was the most recent
research, which did not bear out our view
33. I understand from Amanda McCaig of your
support group that that was made clear, confirmed, I understand,
by Dr Alan Radford.
(Mr Wilson) Those two people are individuals
and had an individual view. There was not a view from any support
group or any consultant we employ or use that those numbers were
34. So what went wrong?
(Mr Wilson) We wish we knew. It is a
whole range of factors which one has to look at. First of all,
from the time we had that research, the whole climate in which
visitor attractions had been working has changed. There are more
of them, the increase in visitor numbers which was expected during
the 1990s did not really occur, there was far more competition,
that did not help. For us, people have asked whether there was
a factor because of the Dunblane tragedy which affected people's
views on firearms which happened just before the museum opened.
Did that affect the way people viewed the subject? When the consultants
were looking at reasons why we might not achieve our numbers,
they said we had to make sure the Clarence Dock development around
us was there, giving us the centre of gravity to attract a large
number of people to the area. That has not happened yet.
Mr Griffiths: That is covered in the report.
35. May I just interrupt because we appear to
be being told two different things? You said that no consultant
indicated to you that the price/volume relationship was steep,
yet you told me at the beginning that MORI predicted fewer than
the figures you were aiming for on the pricing you adopted.
(Mr Wilson) No, if I said that I did
not mean to say that. What I was saying was that no consultant
suggested that there was a reason why we should not achieve the
numbers which other consultants were suggesting. They were all
suggesting slightly different numbers in slightly different ways,
but no-one was actually saying we would not achieve these numbers,
nor was there any group out there associated with the Armouries
advising us as experts saying this either.
36. Just so we are clear on this and I understand
it properly, because I clearly misunderstood your opening comments,
on the MORI evidence, which presumably was survey evidence, you
have a £5 forecast line here, the light grey one. Where would
the £6.95 or £7 line come on your graph?
(Mr Wilson) That would come beneath the
bottom line because they were saying 278,000. They were saying
it was very price sensitive.
37. So their forecast was below the one you
(Mr Wilson) Their forecast was at that
38. I have spoken to MORI. MORI tell me that
the specific questions they were asked to put on this shaped the
answers and that the answers were inflated and that had they put
different questions in a different way, we might have got a more
realistic figure. May I ask you about the importance of marketing?
(Mr Wilson) Yes. That was another of
the issues which were raised by most of the consultants. The museum
would have to be marketed extremely well.
39. How important is a website for marketing
for museums these days?
(Mr Wilson) These days it is of increasing
1 Note: See Evidence, Appendix 1, page 21 (PAC 2000-2001/153). Back
Note: See Evidence, Appendix 1, page 21 (PAC 2000-2001/153). Back
Note: See Evidence, Appendix 1, page 21 (PAC 2000-2001/153). Back