Heritage Tourism in 2021: Museums in London

Compiled by © David Gill

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

New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art © David Gill

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

Chart © David Gill, 2021; Data from the Hellenic Statistical Service

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

© 2021

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 Great Court at the British Museum © David Gill

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.

© David Gill, 2021

Heritage Tourism in 2020: Oxford University Museums

© David Gill, 2021

The release of ALVA visitor figures have shown the impact of the pandemic on visitors to Oxford University Museums. The 3.3 million visitors in 2019 dropped to 887,516 in 2020. (This is still more than the number of visitors to University of Cambridge Museums.)

Heritage Tourism in 2020: University of Cambridge Museums

© David Gill, 2021

The ALVA figures for 2020 have shown the impact of the pandemic on museum visitors through the figures for the University of Cambridge Museums. The total number of visitors has dropped from 1.3 million in 2019 to 471,408 in 2020. However if you remove the Cambridge University Botanic Garden from the figures this leaves 277,918 visitors to all the other locations.

The Parthenon marbles: paving “the path for modern democracy”

The Parthenon frieze © David Gill

As part of the bicentenary of the Greek War of Independence draws near, two US members of Congress have passed a resolution calling on the UK Government to return the architectural sculptures from the Parthenon to Greece (“Hellenic Caucus Co-Chairs Maloney & Bilirakis Reintroduce Resolution Calling on the U.K. to Return the Parthenon Marbles to Greece“, 18 March 2021).

Congressman Gus Bilirakis said:

“The Parthenon Marbles were made by the citizens of Athens under the direction of renowned artist Phidias to celebrate the pride and majesty of the City of Athens. To not house and view these citizen contributions in the city they were originally intended does a disservice not only to the people of Athens, but also to the civilization that paved the path for modern democracy and freedom.”

The appeal to the original intention of the sculptor is a strong one. These sculptures were an integral part of a building, incidentally now part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Athenian Akropolis.

Is now the time for these sculptures to be returned to Athens so that they can be displayed in line of sight of the Parthenon?

Sector knowledge: exhibition – a journal of exhibition theory and practice for museum professionals

Journal Summary: Exhibition is a journal of exhibition theory & practices for museum professionals, published by NAME, the National Association for Museum Exhibition. It is published twice a year.

Publisher: NAME (National Association for Museum Exhibition) / American Alliance of Museums

Website: EXHIBITION ONLINE — National Association for Museum Exhibition (name-aam.org)

Access: Subscription; some open access (archive issues available)

Journal Type: Industry peer reviewed

Renewed debate over cultural property

Architectural sculpture from the Parthenon currently in the British Museum © David Gill

The British Prime Minister has stepped into the debate about cultural property currently held in the British Museum by making a statement about what he considers to be the legal status of the Parthenon architectural sculptures (“Greek culture minister challenges British PM’s claims on Parthenon sculptures“, ekatherimini.com 12 March 2021). These sculptures were once an integral part of the Parthenon, part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Athenian Acropolis. The proposal is to display them in line of sight with the Parthenon.

Some of the issues relating to cultural property are explored in my Context Matters: Collating the Past (20202) [see here].

The New Acropolis Museum and the Theatre of Dionysos from the Athenian Acropolis © David Gill
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