Holburne Free for All

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Holburne Free for All

July 23, 2009

Two years before it re-opens following a £10.8m capital development project, the Holburne Museum in Bath has made the bold move of scrapping admission charges for the first time in its long history.

As the Museum of the University of Bath, the Holburne will be joining the ranks of other free-to-enter university museums including the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford and Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester. Experience has shown that free entry dramatically increases visitor numbers.

Free entry to national and university museums was introduced from 2001 and has been an outstanding success. For national museums visitor figures overall have increased by 87% since free admission was introduced with many museums seeing increases of over 100%(1). During Bath’s Heritage Open Week, when the Holburne does not charge admission, the Museum tends to see a three-fold increase in its own visitor number (2).

The restoration of its eighteenth-century home and the building of a spectacular modern extension promises to place the Holburne alongside some of Europe’s most wonderful regional museums. But taking this decision at such an early stage in its redevelopment, signals its confidence in its own future.

Dr Alexander Sturgis, Director of the Holburne, is delighted at the decision: “We believe we can be at the centre of a new excitement within Bath. It is the transformation of the Holburne’s building that makes free entry possible and this will in turn transform our relationship with our visitors.”

“A free museum becomes, naturally, a place to drop into for a moment’s peace or to meet a friend, to take your parents or children or to see a new display or visit an old favourite.”

“The pleasures of art should be available to everyone and free entry will mean we can play a more vital and familiar role in the life of Bath and the South West. All the evidence shows that free entry encourages new visitors to museums – this has to be great news not only for us but for Bath as a whole.”

When it re-opens the Holburne will house a collection of fine and decorative arts, built around the exquisite art collection of Sir William Holburne – assembled in nineteenth-century Bath. We hold a nationally significant collection of paintings, Renaissance bronzes and maiolica, silver, sculpture, furniture and porcelain, including important and popular works by Brueghel, Gainsborough, Stubbs and Turner. In recent years we have also established a national reputation for imaginative, scholarly and popular exhibitions.

In common with many museums with free admission, the Holburne will continue to charge for temporary exhibitions. This, along with a garden café and shop, as well as venue hire, will help finance this historic move.

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For further information please contact:
Katie Jenkins, Communications Officer,
The Holburne Museum of Art
T: 01225 820818
E: k.jenkins@bath.ac.uk


1) Figures show more people than ever are enjoying free entry to museums: https://www.culture.gov.uk/reference_library/media_releases/2250.aspx/

2) Heritage Open Week is organised by Bath & North East Somerset Council during October half term with participating venues offering free admission to B&NES’ residents.

Published on: 23/07/2009