Select Committee on Public Accounts Thirty-Third Report

Conclusions and recommendations

1.  The museums and galleries have achieved a creditable performance in generating their own income but there is unrealised potential. There is scope for growth across a wide range of activities including catering, shops, mail order and e-commerce. Fundraising and venue hire continue to be promising areas for income growth which usually give a high return. And there are opportunities to learn from new and innovative ways money is being made at some of the museums and galleries, and in the wider museums sector.

2.  The museums should set five year targets for income growth, with milestones, against which they and the Department can monitor progress. Targets should be supported by plans based on a systematic review of their assets and opportunities, an appreciation of which areas are most profitable and an assessment of the risks.

3.  The museums and galleries need a better understanding of the costs they incur in generating income. Many of the museums and galleries do not know with any accuracy what profit they make on some of their income generating activities and some have lost money. For each of their money-making activities, including those not undertaken solely for commercial reasons, they need clear objectives and financial targets, and accounting systems to measure financial performance.

4.  The Department should explore with Partnerships UK how to make investment funding for income generation schemes more accessible to museums and galleries. Museums and galleries are heavily reliant on finding private sector partners for new business ventures, which can be difficult and time-consuming.

5.  The museums and galleries need to be more entrepreneurial. To help identify new ideas for income generation and advise on how best to deliver them, the Department should see what can be done to draw on the knowledge and skills of experienced entrepreneurs. The Department should appoint more entrepreneurs as trustees and encourage Boards to appoint entrepreneurial Directors.

6.  The museums and galleries need to develop their skills for income generation across most of the core areas, such as retailing and fundraising. The Department should promote greater sharing of knowledge and skills by:

  • exploring whether some smaller museums and galleries could pool staff resources and work together to generate income;
  • establishing an exchange programme between the museums and galleries; and
  • putting on a programme of events and training, for example in collaboration with the Museums Trading Association.

7.  Charging policies for special exhibitions should not exclude people on low incomes from seeing the best of what the museums and galleries offer. Income from paying exhibitions has doubled since the introduction of free admission to the main museum or gallery in 2001 but the Department cannot say what impact these charges are having on attendance by people from lower income groups.

8.  Museums and galleries should collect data on the socioeconomic status of visitors to paying exhibitions as well as to the museum in general. If people on low incomes tend not to visit special exhibitions, the Department, in conjunction with the museums and galleries, should review pricing policies, in particular the use of concessions, and the targeting of audiences in the way exhibitions are promoted.

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