ALVA has released visitor figures for 2022. The 10 most visited museums in London have shown an increase since the pandemic: 22.3 million visits in 2022. This is down from 36.6 million visits to the same museums in 2019 (but including the National Portrait Gallery).
Heritage Tourism 2022: Cambridge University
ALVA has released visitor figures for 2022. The Cambridge University Museums, including the Botanic Garden, attracted 1 million visitors against 534,191 in 2021. This is just below the pre-pandemic number of 1.3 million visitors in 2019. The Fitzwilliam Museum exceeded its 2019 number.
Gladiators and Roman Britain
Several amphitheatres are known from Roman Britain. Remains of the one in London includes a dramatic reconstruction that helps visitors to understand the space.
One of the most dramatic examples can be found at Cirencester, with another at Silchester. Amphitheatres are also known from the legionary fortresses at Caerleon and Chester.
Gladiatorial combats feature in the mosaics from the villa at Bignor suggesting familiarity with gladiators.
The Hawkedon gladiatorial helmet from Suffolk and now in the British Museum is suggested by some to have been derived from the Roman colony at Colchester, and a gladiator carved from bone and now in the British Museum is also said to come from Colchester.
The so-called ‘Colchester Vase’, decorated with gladiatorial scenes, was discovered in a cemetery off the Lexden Road in 1848. This is the subject of a report (Dalya Alberge, ‘Startling’ new evidence reveals gladiators fought in Roman Britain. The Observer (London) March 4, 2023; James Fitzgerald, ‘Gladiator fights were staged in Roman Britain, evidence suggests‘, BBC News March 6, 2023) that claims ‘Gladiator fights were once staged in Roman-occupied Britain’. Alberge notes a forthcoming ‘research paper’ by Glynn Davis of Colchester Museum and John Pearce of King’s College London. The new research presumably has as its focus a re-interpretation of the pot and its decoration.
Proposed reorganisation of museums in Greece
A consultation is underway over the future of the status of five key museums in Greece (“Museums set to go it alone under new law“, ekathimerini.com 17 January 2023). There are concerns that these key museums, including the National Archaeological Museum in Athens and the Herakleion Museum, will be expected to act more independently and be responsible for part of their revenue creation. Some have suggested that the move will prepare the way for some future privatisation and will see a break with the rest of the Archaeological Service.
From the Wash to the White Cliffs
Our report on the contribution of the heritage sector to society and the economy in the south east and the east of England was published today.
This report reviews the contribution of heritage to the region defined by the counties of Kent, Essex, Suffolk and Norfolk. It identifies four key themes that link the heritage in the region: coastal defence; Christian heritage; historic houses; and historic landscapes and natural heritage. The region contains one UNESCO World Heritage Site at Canterbury. Heritage is supported by the development of several Heritage Action Zones and High Street Heritage Action Zones across the four counties.
Heritage features in the strategies for the two regional Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEP), as well as countywide and local authority heritage and cultural strategies. The report identifies examples of good practice.
Several research themes have been identified that link to the interests of the three sponsoring universities of East Anglia, Essex, and Kent. Coastal heritage across the four counties is facing the threat of the climate crisis and assets are being lost due to coastal erosion. The impact of rising sea levels is also assessed. Heritage and cultural property crime affects the sustainability of heritage and cultural property across the region. Five case studies are presented: damage to churches, including lead roof theft; illegal metal-detecting and the disposal of finds; architectural theft; vandalism; and the use of technology to facilitate crime against heritage assets. The third research theme relates to the way that the DCI sector works with heritage organisation to record and interpret assets. The development of a county based Digital Heritage Strategy for Suffolk is highlighted.
The economic benefits of heritage are explored through the award of National Lottery Heritage Fund (NLHF) grants to heritage projects. Between 2013 and 2020 the EARC region was awarded over £190 million for heritage projects by NLHF. In addition, the report explores visitor trends and identifies the impact of COVID-19 on the tourism economy for the region. Historic England estimates that the heritage sector accounted for 140,000 jobs in the south east, and eastern England in 2019.
The social benefits of heritage align with the UK Government’s Levelling-Up agenda. This is explored through a number of sub-themes: health and well-being; pride in place; digital connectivity; education and skills.
The report concludes with a reflection on the challenges facing heritage across the region. This includes encouraging public participation with museums and archives.
Gill, D. W. J., M. Kelleher, P. Matthews, T. M. Pepperell, H. Taylor, M. Harrison, C. Moore, and J. Winder. 2022. From the Wash to the White Cliffs: The Contribution of the Heritage Sector. Eastern Academic Research Consortium (EARC) <https://kar.kent.ac.uk/96160/>.
Press release: New report highlights the contribution of heritage to the EARC region, 10 August 2022 <https://easternarc.ac.uk/news/earc-report-identifies-the-economic-and-social-contribution-of-heritage-to-the-south-east-and-east-of-england/>
Heritage Tourism in 2021: Museums in London
The ALVA figures for 2021 allow us to gain a glimpse of visit numbers across the heritage sector. Visitor numbers in London have not bounced back; indeed, they are marginally down on 2020. Is this due to the lack of visitors from outside the UK? Are members of the public concerned about visiting such venues where it is not possible to maintain social distancing?
Such a dramatic drop in numbers (from 36.6 million in 2019 to 7.7 million in 2021) will have an impact on income in terms of special exhibitions, retail outlets and catering. What is not clear is if this will be reflected in the numbers retaining membership of friends’ organisations.
New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art to remove ‘Sackler’ name
It is being reported that New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art will be dropping the name ‘Sackler’ on galleries and exhibits (“New York’s Met museum to remove Sackler name from exhibits“, BBC News, December 9, 2021).
“The seven exhibition spaces bearing the Sackler name include a wing housing the famous Temple of Dendur, an ancient Egyptian temple commissioned by the province’s Roman governor.”
Does this mean that other galleries in the museum will be renamed?
Greece: COVID-19 and the economic impact on heritage
The latest figures from the Hellenic Statistical Service have revealed the major impact on visitor numbers to museums and archaeological sites in Greece to the end of November 2020. I have already comments on the dramatic fall of visitors (museums; archaeological sites) and the picture continues to be bleak: 3.7 million visitors (to the end of November 2020) compared to 19.5 million visitors in 2019. However, the telling figure comes from ticket receipts: 21.1 million Euros (to the end of November 2020) compared to 130.9 million Euros in 2019. This is a significant loss of budget for the protection and conservation of heritage in Greece.
Museum Visitors and Greece: 2020
The Hellenic Statistical Service released the latest visitor numbers for museums in Greece today (31 March 2021). Although the numbers are only available up to the end of September 2020, they show a drop of 79.5% due to the pandemic. The Archaeological Museum in Herakleion showed a drop of over 90 per cent. The January-September comparison between 2019 and 2020 shows the impact: a fall from 4.7 million visitors to 976,805. (In 2019 there were 5.8 million visitors to museums in Greece.) This is reflected in a decrease of ticket sales of 82 per cent: from 19.2 million Euros in 2019 to 3.4 million Euros in 2020.
Museums in London: Visitors in 2020
The publication of the ALVA visitor figures for museums in London demonstrates the impact of COVID restrictions. A selection of 11 museums in London received over 36.6 million visitors in 2019, reduced to 8.2 million in 2020. This represents lost income that will need to be addressed by the sector.